Snooker World Championship: Crucible Semi-Finals Preview
All players dream of reaching the one-table set-up at the Crucible Theatre and there is an all-star look to this season's World Championship semi-final line-up.
Veteran stars Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams are joined by Judd Trump – with all four being previous world champions – a Crucible first.
Thirty years on from their professional breakthrough, the fabled 'Class of '92' are still hitting all the right notes and their respective runs to the last four at this year's Sheffield showpiece shows they are still performing as well as ever.
O'Sullivan is appearing in his 13th Crucible semi-final and is bidding to equal Stephen Hendry on seven titles but faces a tough test from old foe Higgins, who is chasing a fifth world crown of his own.
The other last-four rumble sees Welsh three-time world champion Williams going toe-to-toe with the young pretender Trump, who clinched his maiden Crucible crown in 2019.
These four heavy-hitters have 14 world titles between them in Sheffield and, with them all still housed in the top eight of the rankings, they form arguably the greatest semi-final line-up in Crucible history.
O'Sullivan is 1.72 to go on and claim the Silver Lady for a seventh time on Monday, while Trump is a 2.10 chance, with Higgins at 1001.00 and Williams trading 333334.00.
Rocket and Higgins renew their rivalry
O'Sullivan returned to world number one spot at the expense of Mark Selby earlier this month and he has been performing like top dog in Sheffield, bulldozing his way to the last four.
The Rocket blasted his way past Dave Gilbert 10-5 in his opener before outclassing Mark Allen 13-4 and recording an equally easy 13-5 success over Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals.
However, while Ronnie's performances have been impressive, he has been put under very little pressure from his opponents and a sterner test is in the pipeline against old mate Higgins in what is regarded as snooker's very own El Clasico.
The Wizard of Wishaw has had the Rocket's measure in recent times, winning six of their last seven meetings, and he has triumphed in three of their five World Championship encounters to boot.
Higgins is also enjoying a super season, having reached five finals, and although below his best in his 13-12 quarter-final win over Jack Lisowski, he has become a master at turning it on for the big occasion.
The Scot's last world title win came way back in 2011 but he made three consecutive finals between 2017 and 2019 and has made big sacrifices this season in order to stay at the top of his game
O'Sullivan, who made it six world titles with his victory over Kyren Wilson two years ago, is widely regarded as the greatest player to have ever picked up a cue but he has the utmost respect for Higgins, which may see him drawn into a battle played on Higgins' preferred terms of engagement.
O'Sullivan is 1.50 to make the final, with his Scottish challenger a 2.62 chance. It is 2.00 for this best-of-33 contest between these two fierce rivals to go over 29.5 frames and it's improbable we'll see a runaway winner.
Higgins versus O'Sullivan gets underway at 19:00 on Thursday, with another eight-frames on Friday afternoon before they complete their battle with two sessions on Saturday at 10:00 and 19:00.
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Williams hoping experience counts for plenty
Williams is a three-time world champion and appearing in his seventh semi-final after a hard-fought 13-11 win over Yan Bingtao, yet the 47-year-old Welshman may have never played better.
The Welsh Potting Machine has racked up 12 centuries on his way to the semi-finals while his opponent Trump has managed only four so far.
That scoring prowess, his tactical nous and all those years of experience should stand Williams in good stead, providing the gruelling best-of-33 format doesn't favour his younger opponent.
Despite being one of the best players on tour, Trump arrived in Sheffield under the radar with him evidently performing way below the levels we have become accustomed to.
However, the Juddernaut does look to be growing into the heat of battle and wins over Hossein Vafaei, Anthony McGill and Stuart Bingham cannot be knocked.
Trump has certainly had a harder route to the last four than Williams, who beat compatriots Michael White 10-3 and Jackson Page 13-3 to book his place in the quarter-finals.
But the win over Bingtao, who had earlier knocked out defending champion Mark Selby, showed Williams was up for the fight as he trailed 11-10 and on current form he looks the player to beat.
Trump is 1.53 to make his third world final, with Williams 2.50 to register his fifth. The Welshman, who is leading the tournament for most centuries so far, is 2.00 to have at least three more in this last-four tussle.
Trump and Williams are first to appear as the Crucible moves to the famous one-table set-up on Thursday afternoon at 14:30. They'll play two sessions on Friday at 10:00 and 19:30 and are scheduled to play to a finish from 14:30 on Saturday afternoon.
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