Here is the story of the 2022 European Masters quarter-finals and semi-finals.
Fan-Tastic! Zhengyi Into Last Four
China’s 21-year-old Fan Zhengyi reached the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time with a 5-3 victory over David Gilbert at the BetVictor European Masters.
Meanwhile Graeme Dott edged out Ryan Day 5-4 in a tense finish to reach the 21st ranking event semi-final of his career and first since 2020. Dott and Fan will go head to head for a place in the final on Saturday from 1pm.
Fan first showed his potential when won the World Under-21 Championship in 2017, and he turned pro the following year. His first few seasons on the circuit have been a learning experience, but he has made a leap forward in the last few weeks, reaching his first ranking event quarter-final at last month’s BildBet German Masters, and now going one step further this week in Milton Keynes.
The talented potter could have the potential to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong, who have won multiple titles in recent years. This week’s run has already guaranteed him £17,500 and he is sure to leap up from his current world ranking of 80th.
Breaks of 56, 62 and 117 helped put him 4-0 up on world number 19 Gilbert. After the interval, the momentum changed as Fan missed chances to seal the match. Gilbert took a scrappy fifth frame then made a 98 for 4-2. In frame seven, Fan missed the last red to a baulk corner, playing with the long rest, when he led by 34 points. Gilbert battled back to steal the frame and raise his hopes of a fight back.
And the Englishman led 46-0 in the eighth, but Fan worked his way back into the frame, and eventually made a fine clearance from the last red, including an excellent shot on the blue to dislodge the pink from a side cushion.
“For the first four frames I wasn’t thinking about the match, I was just playing well,” said Fan, who is based in Sheffield and practises with the likes of Zhao and Yan. “Then after the interval I started thinking, and I got nervous and needed a lot of chances. But overall I really enjoyed the game and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Scotland’s Dott, the 2006 World Champion, has struggled for form for much of this season and dropped to 47th in the rankings. But the 44-year-old’s game has clicked this week and he is just two wins away from his third professional title and first since 2007.
He had leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 over Day but couldn’t shake his opponent off and it came down to a decider in which both players had clear chances. Dott took the last two reds to lead by 28 points with just the colours left, and survived Day’s battle for snookers on the green and brown.
“It was the worst I have played this week,” said Dott, whose top break was just 49. “Sometimes you get matches like that where the balls go scrappy, and you just have to get the win. It wasn’t pretty. I never felt in control, even at 2-0. I made a lot of unforced errors which I need to cut out. Either of us could have won that match.
“I don’t want to end up one of the players who always says he’s playing well in practice, but I have been doing that, and I’m not producing it in matches. Even today it was hard not to be disappointed because I know I can play a lot better. I just had to accept it, try to win the match and hopefully play better tomorrow.
“There are so many good young Chinese players now, you could name ten, and probably miss out six or seven. It won’t be long before they are dominating. Fan will be so happy to be in the semis, he could play out of his skin. Or he could completely crumble – I’m hoping that’s the case!”
Fan played very well indeed before the MSI but was there for the taking after the resumption. I honestly didn’t expect him to be able to win the decider from 46-0 down the way things had gone in the second part of the match, but he did and all credits to him. He was very strong mentally.
Both Dott and Day struggled. It wasn’t pretty.
China’s Liang is into his second ranking semi-final within five weeks as he reached the same stage of the BetVictor Shoot Out. Prior to that, he had gone five years without an appearance in the last four of a ranking event, and admits he had become “lazy” but has taken a more professional approach to the sport this season. The 34-year-old is seeking his second ranking title having landed the English Open crown in 2016.
Breaks of 60 and 71 put Scotland’s McGill 2-0 ahead, then Liang took the next three frames with top runs of 66 and 61. McGill’s run of 50 made it 3-3, and in the seventh he capitalised on a miss from Liang on the final blue to a centre pocket, slotting in blue and pink to lead 4-3. World number 35 Liang dominated the next to force a decider.
A superb long red from McGill set him up for a match winning chance and he made 62 before running out of position. Liang battled his way back into the frame and it came down to a safety battle on the yellow. Trapped in a tough snooker behind the black, McGill narrowly failed to hit the yellow, and left his opponent a free ball. Liang kept his nerve to clear the table before celebrating in exuberant fashion.
“Anthony was very unlucky when he ran out of position on 62 in the last frame,” admitted Liang. “In the end I played a good safety behind the black and then took the chance. I just tried to calm down and keep strong. I haven’t felt like that for a long time. We both played very well. Everyone is different. I celebrated at the end to take the pressure off.
“For the last few years I have gone the wrong way, not really concentrating on my game. When I won the English Open (2016) and got to the UK Championship final (2015) I was playing very well. Then in 2018, 2019 and 2020 I was lazy when I should have been professional. For those three years I wasn’t good enough, there was something wrong. My confidence is coming back now but I still need to try my best.
“Ronnie and I are very good friends. We have been to China together and been to my home town and played exhibitions. I think we are the best snooker playing friends in the world. Tomorrow I will just enjoy it. I want to win but it will be very tough.”
Fab Fan Downs Dott To Reach Final
Up-and-coming Chinese 21-year-old Fan came out on top in his first ranking semi-final to earn a clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan or Liang Wenbo in Milton Keynes on Sunday. He is guaranteed £35,000 and victory would boost that figure to £80,000,
Going into 2022, Fan had reached the last 32 of a ranking event just once in his career. He gained momentum with a run to the quarter-finals of the BildBet German Masters in January, and has now gone two steps further. This week, the 2017 World Under-21 champion has beaten the likes of Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao, David Gilbert and now Dott.
Fan now has the chance to become the fifth player from mainland China to win a ranking title, joining Ding Junhui, Liang, Yan and Zhao Xintong. Based in Sheffield, he practises with Yan and Zhao, and their recent success has clearly rubbed off.
Scotland’s Dott missed the chance to reach his 11th career ranking final, and saw his hopes of winning a first title since 2007 disappear. The world number 47 earns a much-needed boost to his ranking having banked £17,500.
Fan took a scrappy opening frame then in the second made a superb 131, his third century of the tournament. Dott took the third with a 66 clearance, but made a crucial error at the end of the fourth when his safety shot on the final pink hit the bump of a centre pocket, handing his opponent a chance to clip the pink into a baulk corner and go 3-1 ahead.
Another safety mistake from Dott in the fifth, when he led 47-8, let Fan in for a 58 clearance to extend his lead. Frame six came down to a safety battle on the green and Dott laid a tough snooker behind the black, and took the chance that followed to close to 4-2. The Larkhall potter looked to be on the comeback trail as he made a 62 to draw within a frame.
Fan’s run of 77 put him 5-3 ahead and he had chances for victory in the 37-minute ninth frame but Dott eventually got the better of a battle on the colours to keep his hopes alive. Dott had two scoring opportunities in frame ten but when he missed a tricky red to a baulk corner at 32-0, it proved his last shot as Fan made an excellent 84 to clinch the result.
“It’s hard to believe I am in the final, it has been an amazing week,” said Fan. “I played well today. I felt pressure when Graeme came back from 4-1 to 4-3. I thought it was going to be 5-5 but I got a chance and made a very good break. I tried to keep calm and not think about what it would mean to reach the final. Every round this week I have beaten good players and got more confidence.
“I don’t mind who I play tomorrow. To play Ronnie in a big final would be a dream come true but it would also be very special to meet Liang. I will have to try not to think about the big occasion and just play my game. This is the best week of my career for sure. Playing every day with Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao has helped me to get better. I hope there is still a lot of improvement to come.”
Fan has done extremely well all week, and yesterday afternoon he constructed some very good breaks and took most of the opportunities he was presented with. It’s fair however to say that Dott didn’t play well. He fought extremely hard, as he always does, but he didn’t play well.
That said, whatever happens today Fan’s run to the final is another indication that the young Chinese generation has arrived, and Victoria has played a huge part in their development. It was futher confirmed by another win yesterday for one of her young players as Si Jiahui has won the WSF Open Championship and will get a tour card starting next season.
Si Beats Stephens In WSF Open Final
Si earns a two-year World Snooker Tour card and will enjoy a return to the pro circuit from next season, having played on the tour from 2019 to 2021. This season, the 19-year-old has played as a Q School top up in pro events and scored wins over the likes of Shaun Murphy, Matthew Stevens and Graeme Dott.
Breaks of 63 and 104 helped Si to a comfortable victory in the final against Stevens. Earlier in the semi-finals, Si came from 3-1 down to beat Michael White 4-3, while Stephens scored a 4-2 win over Daniel Wells.
Overall, some 280 players competed in the event, from 43 different nations. For all the results click here.