Baize Watch: Episode 4

Selby – Rocket Is Like Federer

Mark Selby reached the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix with a 5-2 win over Michael White, then expressed his admiration for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s current form.

World number one Selby continued his bid to win a second ranking title of the season, and first since the International Championship in November. He now meets Ding Junhui in the semis on Saturday evening at the Guild Hall in Preston. O’Sullivan made four centuries last night in a 5-0 win over Xiao Guodong and faces Stephen Maguire in the other semi tonight.

Selby was far from his best today, making several unforced errors, but breaks of 69, 59 and 52 helped him to reach the last four and remain in contention for the £100,000 top prize.

“I was practising last night then at the interval I saw Ronnie had a 99% pot success rate,” Selby told ITV. “He came in to practise on the other table and I thought he must be looking for that extra 1%! Like Roger Federer he seems to be getting better with age, which is worrying for the rest of us. If I end up meeting him in the final I would prefer that because I’d know if I don’t play well I’d have no chance.

“I got frustrated today because I’m playing well on the practice table but it’s not happening out there in matches. Any pot over six foot, I am not timing and cueing across it. I’m glad I’m still in the tournament but I take pride in my performance so I’m not happy with that. In some frames I am getting three or four chances and only getting 20 points in front. I was trying to force myself to play well today rather than just focusing on trying to win.”

Asked about O’Sullivan’s comment earlier in the week that only Selby, Ding and John Higgins have the “bottle” needed to thrive at the top level, Selby added: “That’s harsh on the likes of Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy because they have won the Triple Crown.”

China’s Ding got the better of a tough battle against Anthony McGill, winning 5-3. After sharing the first four frames, Ding made a 96 to lead 3-2, then McGill levelled again at 3-3. World number four Ding regained the lead with a superb 134. Scotland’s McGill had a chance to make it 4-4 but he missed the penultimate red when trailing 47-35 in frame eight, and Ding took advantage to reach his first semi-final since he won the Yushan World Open in September.

“Everything has been good this week, I have been winning matches with good performances,” said Ding. “It will be very tough against Selby, I will just try to play well. If I could win the first tournament of the Chinese New Year that would be great.”