The opening semi-final of the Shanghai Masters take place on Friday as two of the biggest players ever to grace the game take to the baize over two sessions of action with Ronnie O’Sullivan taking on Mark Selby for a place in the final.
These two gladiators will meet over the best of 19 frames with 10 being the magic number to make it through to the final on Sunday. Both men have seen off some top level challengers to make it this far which should have us primed for a cracker.
Nobody truly knew what to expect from the defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan with this being his first tournament since the World Championship. One thing we knew was that he would be up for this because it is these elite invitational events which get his juices flowing but whether he would be rusty was open to debate. I guess we are still working that out because although he has made it through he hasn’t looked excellent in doing it.
O’Sullivan was 3-3 with Ali Carter at one stage of their second round match and then trailed John Higgins 5-2 in the quarter final but neither opponent could put their man away and the defending champion remains intact in the competition. To be fair to O’Sullivan, he found his best snooker when his back was right against the wall against Higgins and if that inspires a performance out of him here he is entitled to be hard to beat.
I guess you could argue that Mark Selby hasn’t been at his best in this tournament either but we know from previous experience that he can win matches and competitions without showing anything like what we would expect him to show. That said, you regardless of how well or otherwise Judd Trump plays, you don’t beat him 6-1 if you haven’t done something right and that was the outcome of their quarter final on Thursday.
Selby did score well in that match which bodes well for him in this one. He knocked in five breaks over 50 in the six that he won and you would imagine he’ll need to have his scoring boots with him over the course of this match if he is going to come out on top in this one. We know he can mix it in the safety department but he’ll need to score well, particularly the longer this match goes on as O’Sullivan will probably find a groove at some point.
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If we take out the Shootout and the Championship League these two men have met on 28 previous occasions with O’Sullivan having 16 wins to the 11 of Selby with a draw in that time as well. Selby won their last meeting which was in the 2020 Scottish Open final. The pair have met in 11 multi-session matches in the past and Selby has the edge in those, leading 6-5 but it is O’Sullivan who has won four of their six previous semi-finals. This will be their first meeting in the Shanghai Masters and their second in China overall. Selby won their first 5-3 in the 2002 China Open quarter final.
I’m expecting a close match here. This might be a match where Mark Selby takes the early lead but the longer it goes on Ronnie O’Sullivan finds something and either comes back to win or make Selby work hard for his win, in a similar vein to that incredible semi-final at the World Championship in the Covid times. I think if we were basing this on the form we have seen this week we would side with Selby but the way O’Sullivan turned things around at the end against Higgins felt important.
Generally when these two meet they treat us to fireworks and with the main table likely to be recovered ahead of this match we shouldn’t really expect any different here. The frames line for this one is 16.5 which feels one too low to me. If we take the over we are looking at someone winning this match no easier than 10-7 and this doesn’t feel like a game which is going to be won with either of them going away. I like the over here.
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