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.