So we have two established top players from Britain against two very young up and coming players from China in the semi finals tomorrow.
How did we get there?
Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:
On Saturday Higgins will meet China’s 20-year-old Lyu Haotian, who beast Martin O’Donnell 5-1. The winner will go through to Sunday’s final in Guangzhou to compete for the £150,000 top prize.
Scotland’s Higgins has won his last four matches against Englishman Trump, including a 13-12 thriller at the World Championship earlier this year.
World number five Trump had played the best snooker of the week so far, losing just three frames in his first three matches, but struggled to produce the same standard today. He led 3-2 with top breaks of 55 and 50 but Higgins cleared from blue to black to win frame six then made a 79 to lead 4-3.
In frame eight, Trump had a chance to clear from 45-0 down but failed to get position on the final yellow. It came down to the pink and black and when Trump missed a long pink he left his opponent to pot both balls for victory.
“The standard was atrocious,” admitted Higgins, seeking his 31st ranking title. “Judd and I usually have decent games but that was pathetic. I’m struggling and bringing people down to my level. I don’t know how I am in the semi-finals. Judd will be kicking himself because I was hopeless.
“The sixth frame when Judd had the chance to go 4-2 up was a big moment. When I went 3-3 I felt I had a chance. I made a good break in the seventh then luckily in the last frame he left me on the pink. I’m not scoring well at all but hopefully I can make it a street-fight against Lyu tomorrow and have a chance of winning.”
World number 58 Lyu sailed into a 3-0 lead today with breaks of 102, 57 and 124. O’Donnell pulled one back 93 but his opponent took the next two frames on the colours to seal the result.
“I played well, especially in the first half of the match,” said Lyu, who dropped off the pro tour in 2017 but regained his place and climbed into the top 64 last season. “After the mid-session interval we both missed a couple of easy shots.
“I have practised hard and I play every match with same attitude. My good form over the last few tournaments has continued and that gives me some confidence. Hopefully I can keep that going tomorrow.”
Zhao, age 21, followed up yesterday’s victory over Mark Williams with an equally impressive win over Hawkins as he kept his best ever ranking event run going. On Saturday he’ll face world number one Mark Selby – a 5-2 winner over Yuan Sijun – for a place in Sunday’s final, where a top prize of £150,000 will be up for grabs.
Hawkins made breaks of 69 and 52 in taking a 3-1 lead. After the interval world number 97 Zhao, ranked 90 places below his opponent, won a scrappy fifth frame then made an 86 in the next for 3-3. Hawkins regained the lead with an 85 but didn’t score a point in the last two frames as Zhao fired runs of 94 and 82.
“I didn’t play well during the first half of the match,” said Zhao, who dropped off the pro tour last season but bounced straight back via Q School in May. “There were many spectators cheering me on which gave me pressure to perform. Towards the end I managed to adjust and I played as if I was in practice. I played my own game and left my opponent few chances in the last two frames.
“I’ve always believed in my technique but I don’t think I have the ability to turn games around when they are not going well. Many of the young players get stuck at this point and are not able to improve. But luckily for me I have done it now.
“I won’t be as nervous playing against Selby. There’s less chance for me to beat the world number one so I’ll just relax and enjoy the match.”
Selby reached the 40th ranking semi-final of his career with a comfortable 5-2 win over 18-year-old Yuan. The first four frames were shared then Leicester’s Selby seized control after the interval and took three in a row with 86, 64 and 70. He is looking to win his seventh ranking event in China and fifth within the past two years.
“From 2-2 I shut him out and scored when I needed to,” said 35-year-old Selby, who is sure to build his lead at the top of the world rankings following the exit of nearest challenger Mark Williams. “I feel as if I am close to playing really well, although the conditions are tough so you can’t play faultless snooker.
“It is incredible to see so many Chinese players coming through now. It will be tough against Zhao tomorrow and I haven’t slept well since I have been here, so hopefully I will get a good rest tonight and be ready for it.”
7am BST: John Higgins v Lyu Haotian
12.30pm BST: Mark Selby v Zhao Xintong
Once again, I didn’t see that much of the snooker today, but here are my thoughts on what I did see.
John Higgins, as himself stated, didn’t play well at all. He missed all sorts. But there are two aspects of his game that remained excellent: his tactical nous and his will to win. Those two were the keys to his victory. Judd Trump had only lost three frames coming into this match, but the truth is that he wasn’t challenged. Today John Higgins asked questions, in particular when he won frame 6 against all odds. And Judd, as so often had no answers. Some of the shots he took left me rather nonplussed. I’m not saying that he deliberately threw the match, because I don’t for an instant believe that he would do such a thing, but for sure, he became impatient, frustrated and ended up playing right in Higgins hands. Unless he manages to rein-in those emotions, I’m afraid that he will never achieve what his natural talent would allow him to achieve. It would be a shame.
Mark Selby played rather well and Yuan SiJun, although he lost, made him work for his win. It was certainly a higher quality match than the Higgins-Trump one, albeit more one-sided. Mark will face Zhao Xintong, who I only was able to watch in the last frame of his match today. It was a decider and he was very solid. This should be a good match: hopefully both will be in good nick.