Snooker stars’ styles suffer in Crucible semis
With Stephen Maguire drawn against Allister Carter, and Ronnie O’Sullivan facing Matthew Stevens, the fixture list for the remainder of the tournament is an all-star affair.
But it seems the final four are finding it hard to stick to their usual styles of play, particularly when compared with their preceding matches.
Stephen Maguire, who was so dominant throughout the tournament’s earlier stages, had dropped just 14 frames on his route to the semi-finals.
Yet, two sessions into his match against Carter, he was 10-6 down and had added just one more century break to his tally for the World Championship so far.
This takes Maguire to six centuries – including two each against Stephen Hendry and Joe Perry, and one against Luca Brecel in the first round.
Meanwhile, in the other half of the draw, O’Sullivan and Stevens embarked on a cagey start to their semi-final match.
Both were playing at a much slower pace than they are known for, with safety a dominant force in the early frames, despite the pair’s usually impeccable break-building credentials.
O’Sullivan edged a slight early lead, but the match continued to be particularly attritional, and is likely to take its toll on the eventual winner ahead of the final.
With that in mind, an even cagier final could yet take place, regardless of the two players who make it through – putting those old favourites back on the betting specials boards for the end of the tournament.
A respotted black in the final frame might seem like a long shot too far, but with several close matches in recent years, you might fancy a punt on the final reaching a deciding frame – or even on the latest-ever finish.