First of all, this week's Scottish Open defined who are the 32 players that will play in next week's World Grand Prix: Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, Kyren Wilson, Zhou Yuelong, John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Lu Ning, Martin Gould, Ding Junhui, Barry Hawkins, David Grace, Joe Perry, Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham, Jamie Jones, Jack Lisowski, Anthony McGill, Yan Bingtao, Ricky Walden, Jak Jones, Zhao Xintong, Mark Allen, Robbie Williams, Xiao Guodong, Hossein Vafaei, Ali Carter, Kurt Maflin, Li Hang, Liang Wenbo, Robert Milkins and Michael Holt. It's good to see players like Barry Hawkins, Ali Carter, and Ricky Walden back into this type of event. Unfortunately, big names like Stephen Maguire, David Gilbert, Mark Williams and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh are out.
Now back to the Scottish Open. The current world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan managed to get himself into the final of a Home Nations Series event once again. He has been experimenting with different cue tips (4 in total) during this tournament. Noticeably unhappy with his tip at times, he still beat Allan Taylor (4-2), Chang Bingyu (4-1), Tian Pengfei (4-3), Robbie Williams (4-1), Ding Junhui (5-4) and Li Hang (6-4) to reach the final. The match against Ding was the weirdest I've ever seen. All statistics point to Ding as the winner, but the Chinese player lost the match in a decider.
China's Li Hang had a wonderful run in the tournament. He beat the former English Open champion Stuart Bingham 4-3 and the world number one Judd Trump in another decider, in the quarter-finals, before playing O'Sullivan today in the semi-finals. Playing with great confidence and skill (remember that he had just defeated Trump the day before), he made breaks of 51, 77, 62, 73 and 66 to open a 4-1 lead against the world champion. However, showing great resilience, O'Sullivan fought back with breaks of 84 and 87 to close the gap to 4-3. Li Hang had a chance to lead 5-3 but broke down and allowed O'Sullivan to level the match. After that, breaks of 93 and 59 saw O'Sullivan into the final.
The other finalist is the defending champion Mark Selby. He has played very well in this tournament. Victories against Yuan Sijun, Nigel Bond, Mark Joyce and Lü Haotian got him into the quarter-finals, where he faced Ricky Walden. With both players playing well, the match went all the way to a decider. Selby made a break of 58 to book his place in the semi-finals and keep his hopes of retaining the title.
Selby's match against Jamie Jones today was simply one-sided. Selby made three century breaks which helped him build a 5-0 lead. Jamie Jones made a break of 99 to avert a whitewash, but it was too late for a comeback against the best player of the tournament. Selby clinched a 6-1 victory with a break of 93 in frame 7. Jamie Jones had a great run in the tournament, though. He comfortably defeated Kyren Wilson 5-1 in the quarter-finals but sadly did not get many chances today.
Selby has been one the most consistent players this season along with Judd Trump and Niel Robertson. The Aussie took a week off after winning the UK Championship last week, when he played an unforgettable final against Judd Trump. As for Trump, I find quite remarkable the fact that he got to the quarter-finals after playing so many matches during this season. Trump won both the English Open in October and the Northern Ireland Open in November, and was trying to get a third Home Nations Series trophy. Besides, he had reached the semi-finals in every tournament earlier this season.
Selby won the European Masters back in September. O'Sullivan is yet to win a title since he became world champion for a sixth time. I think of Selby as the slight favorite. However, when Ronnie O'Sullivan is playing well, he is very hard to beat. The last time both players met, in Sheffield, O'Sullivan was 14-16 down when he found some form and won three consecutive frames to secure his place in the final. Will Selby have his revenge tomorrow? Will O'Sullivan bring his A game to win his first title of the season? The truth is that I have no idea what is going to happen. The only thing I know is that it will be a nice Sunday of snooker.