DING JUNHUI became the first player through to the final four of the Dafabet Champion of Champions event in Coventry after squeezing past Barry Hawkins in a final frame decider.
The Chinese superstar had beaten Coventry-born Dominic Dale 4-2 to clinch a spot in the evening match on Monday while Hawkins dispatched John Higgins 4-1.
In the final Ding raced into a 4-1 lead in the final of their Group 4 encounter at the Ricoh Arena and despite Hawkins battling back to set up a decider, Ding’s run of 51 was enough to carry him to victory and into Saturday’s semi-final.
“I had a good start, went 4-1 ahead, then he started to play some good safeties and he wasn’t missing anything.” said a relieved Ding.
“I had two bad safeties in two frames and his confidence was coming back. There wasn’t too much pressure today and I always believe myself that I can win.
“I did well with my concentration on the game. I didn’t feel too much pressure when he was coming back and making big breaks. Maybe he thought the pressure was returning to me, but what I thought was different.
“I will practise for the rest of the week but I will watch when I can and on Wednesday evening I will watch Wednesday’s group final to see if it is Ronnie I will play next.”
World number 11 Judd Trump will join Ding in Saturday’s semi-final after producing a couple dazzling performances to win Group 2 on Tuesday.
After coasting past an out of sorts Stephen Maguire 4-1 in his opening match, the Romford-based potter then comfortably dispatched current world champion Mark Selby 6-1 in the final and he closed the match out with an impressive 119 break.
Trump now moves into the final four where he will play the winner of Friday’s Group 4 and he feels he has every chances of lifting the title.
“I am really pleased with how I played and I know Mark didn’t play his best but I put him under a lot of pressure from the start and he missed a few,” said a delighted Trump.
“Friday’s group could go any way but Ricky Walden is the form player there. Neil (Robertson) has been struggling a little bit apart from the first tournament of the season so it really could be anyone but if I was to have a guess I would say maybe Mark Allen.
“Between now and then I will go back, have more practice, take it easy and watch some of the games to see how people are playing. I am really looking forward to Saturday now. I haven’t been getting through to the latter stages of many tournaments recently so it is nice to be involved.
“I have played some decent stuff this season but there are a lot of top players now and if you don’t play to the best of your ability you are going to get beaten.”
It is the second year of the £270,000 Champion of Champions event which sees all winners of World Snooker tournaments over the past 12 months compete over six days live on ITV4. The field is topped up via the Official World Rankings.
On Friday Australian Neil Robertson takes on Ali Carter and Ricky Walden, who recently won the International Championship title in China, faces Mark Allen.