This is how we got here … reports by Worldsnooker
Ding Junhui remained on course for a third Betway UK Championship title by beating Yan Bingtao 6-2 in an all-Chinese semi-final.
Ding fired five breaks over 50 in a comfortable victory as he set up a final meeting with Stephen Maguire or Mark Allen in York. First to ten frames on Sunday will win the trophy and £200,000 top prize.
“I need to win. It has been a long time,” said Ding, who hasn’t won a ranking title since the 2017 Yushan World Open, 27 months ago. “I need to get my confidence back. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. I just want to win. That’s my dream.”
Ding, who captured this title in 2005 and 2009, will be aiming for a 14th ranking title and fourth Triple Crown victory as he also won the Masters in 2011.
The 32-year-old hadn’t previously reached a ranking semi-final since February 2018 and has become a father for the first time in that period. He now looks to have regained his focus on snooker and form on the table.
In the first ever all-Chinese semi-final in a Triple Crown event, world number 16 Ding took a 3-0 lead with breaks of 68, 85 and 60. Frame four came down to the last red and 19-year-old Yan potted it and cleared to the blue to get off the mark.
Ding won a scrappy fifth frame before Yan, the first teenager to reach the last four of a Triple Crown event since 2007, compiled a run of 95 to close to 4-2. But Ding closed out the match by taking the next two frames with breaks of 53 and 60.
“I played well today and put Yan under pressure in the first few frames,” said Ding. “He’s young, he’s a good talent. But if you put anyone under pressure they will make mistakes. My long potting was good and if I can do that and play good safety I will be dangerous.
“I like this tournament, it’s very exciting. I am concentrating, still believing in myself, just doing the right thing all the time. At the start of the season I didn’t look too confident or strong. I disappeared sometimes. This time I have come back strongly and I have beaten some good players, especially Ronnie O’Sullivan. Of course, there is a lot of pressure as I really want to do well, however I try not to think about it.
“Yan is still young , he’s done very well this season, he has won one tournament (the Riga Masters) and reached semi-finals of the UK. He’s a great player.”
The result means that Yan misses out on next month’s Dafabet Masters – he could have jumped into the top 16 by winning today’s match.
Ding played well all tournament. Yan was solid in the tactical department but didn’t score enough especially in the last two or three matches. Ronnie was quite harsh on him in the Eurosport studio. I don’t think that was deserved. Of course he does not play the type of snooker that Ronnie appreciates. Ronnie is a big fan of Zhao Xintong, and said that Yan is “limited”. Time will tell and Zhao might indeed be more talented, probably is, and more exciting to watch, but, for now the simple facts are that Yan, at 19, has won a ranking event, reached the final of another one (NI Open 2017) and the semi final of this UK Championship. Zhao is 22 and has done nothing close to that, nor have any of the other young players in that age bracket actually.
Here is the review by the ES pundits, with interviews of both plzyers.
Stephen Maguire white-washed Mark Allen 6-0 with what he described as an “unbelievable performance” to reach the final of the Betway UK Championship.
The 38-year-old Glaswegian will face Ding Junhui in Sunday’s best-of-19 frame final, with the trophy and top prize of £200,000 up for grabs.
Maguire needed just 89 minutes to dismiss Allen in a match which most expected to be a closely-fought battle. Breaks of 95, 129, 72, 50 and 100 helped him to an emphatic win with a near-flawless display.
Having won this title back in 2004, he is aiming to become the tenth player to win the UK Championship on multiple occasions. His only other Triple Crown final came at the 2007 UK Championship when he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Maguire is aiming for his sixth ranking title and first since the 2013 Welsh Open. He has won two invitation events already this season – partnering John Higgins to World Cup glory for Scotland, and beating Higgins in the final of the Six Red World Championship.
Just six weeks ago, Maguire fractured his ankle while travelling to the World Open in China, and must have feared he would need a spell on the sidelines to recover. He continues to walk with a slight limp, but his game is razor sharp.
“That was an unbelievable performance, I felt strong from the start,” said Maguire tonight. “I felt as if I was going to pot everything. The ones I went for all went in.
“I want the title badly. I’ll enjoy it if I settle down and get involved in the game. I know how it is out there in a final. It’s all about getting off to a good start. These big finals don’t come by that often. I’m pushing 40 now so I might not have that long left.
“It would be special. My son keeps asking me when I’m going to win a tournament. He thinks it’s quite easy! I’d love to bring a trophy back to show the family.
“Ding is different class. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and I love the way he plays. I’ve got my work cut out. I’m going to attack and open the reds up. If he scores better than me then he’ll win but if the reds are there I’ll fancy potting them.”
Maguire was simply sensational yesterday, and watching him, I couldnt help to wonder how he’s not won much, much more in his career, how he’s not played to the potential he showed 15 years ago. He went missing for years. The answer is probably that, too often, he let his emotions get the better of him, anger and frustration.
As for Mark Allen, it’s a bit of a concern that it’s the fith time already thise season that he loses in the semi finals. After his previous match, he admitted that he struggled with the favourite tag, he’s notoriously under-performed when playing “at home”… Maybe there is something there that needs to be addressed: a lot of snooker is won or lost in the head.
If both play to their strengths we are in for a real treat.