Previewing the semi-finals, Paul Krishnamurty rates Kyren Wilson a strong favourite to win his first major title and is backing him to beat Luca Brecel in the semi with something to spare...
"Wilson's performance against O'Sullivan from the outset was top-class and particularly how he held it together in the deciding frame."
There will be a first time winner of this year's UK Championship and a first time major winner to boot, after Kyren Wilson eliminated seven-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan in a superb quarter-final. The 29-year-old from Kettering is now clear favourite for the title and rightly so, at odds of 2.447/5.
Wilson plays in the afternoon semi against Luca Brecel. Having tipped Kyren for multiple major glory ever since he first won a title, no way can I abandon him now. His performance against O'Sullivan from the outset was top-class and particularly how he held it together in the deciding frame, having suffered multiple frustrating moments and seen Ronnie haul his way back from 5-3 down.
I've really felt he was ready for the big-time for a couple of years. At the 2020 World Championship, he looked a very strong contender throughout but seemed to freeze in the final. Earlier this year at the Crucible, he was storming towards another final before being stunned by an amazing Shaun Murphy comeback.
Talented Brecel not quite ready for this level yet
With the greatest of respect to Luca Brecel - known to be a top prospect and special talent - his game isn't in that class yet. I haven't seen that much of his games this week, but you can't argue with the results. The fact he's knocked in only one ton and generally needed more than one visit to win frames doesn't bode very well for what is the biggest game of his career.
Back Wilson to win by more than a one frame margin, both as a single and as the first leg of a three unit double.
The second semi is much harder to call. I'm hugely relieved to see Barry Hawkins in the semi, thus keeping my outright plan very much alive when it has looked grim ever since Neil Robertson exited in round one. He certainly has the advantage in terms of experience over Zhao Xintong, but the 24 year-old Chinese star is an explosive talent, who has been outstanding all week.
Second semi could get nervy
I do have a worry about Hawkins' temperament. He's lost many a semi or a final from strong positions. All his title wins came in much lesser events and usually against inferior opponents. He goes into this semi as a firm favourite and that may add a layer of pressure.
However the flipside of that is that this is by far the biggest game of Xintong's career. He's only once ever reached a semi-final, and that came in China. To be fair, he seems absolutely fearless, but let's see how that works out in a game of this magnitide.
For the purposes of the double, I'll stick with Hawkins. He's done nothing wrong this week. However I'm expecting tons of pressure, can envisage lots of mistakes and a thrilling finish. Try 6-5 either way.
Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty
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