Ding Junhui became the first player through to the final four of the Dafabet Champion of Champions as he squeezed past Barry Hawkins in a final frame decider at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
The Chinese hotshot started superbly as he raced into a 4-1 lead, a break of 105 in the fourth frame his highest of the match. Hawkins recovered with top breaks of 70 and 80 as he levelled at 4-4. Ding regained the lead then a 112 from Hawkins set up the decider. Ding’s run of 51 was enough to carry him to victory.
“I had a good start, went 4-1 ahead, then he started to play some good safety and he wasn’t missing anything,” said a relieved Ding, who win five ranking titles last season.
“I had two bad safety shots 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.
“Tonight 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 – on Wednesday evening I will watch the group final to see if it is Ronnie I will play next.”
It’s the second year of the £270,000 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.
For Hawkins, it was a poor start which ultimately cost him dear. He said: “I started off a bit too slowly. I missed a couple of half chances and left Ding in the balls too easily at the start. I played quite well after that and it was a pretty good game.
“There weren’t many balls missed but it was disappointing not to get a chance at the end. I had a couple of poor safety shots and the second time I let Ding in I knew he would make a break then because he does that time and time again.
“I got back to 4-4 and missed a blue off the spot. I shouldn’t have missed that and it was a bit of a turning point because I had come back and was starting to get on top, he was starting to struggle. I came back with a good frame to go 5-5 with a nice century but then made a couple of bad safety errors in the last frame.”
Earlier Ding had beaten Shoot-Out winner Dominic Dale 4-2. Despite looking a little rusty in the opening frames, Ding moved into a 3-0 lead before the Welshman took the next two. Ding then won frame six to progress to the group final.
Hawkins got off to a fine start as he dispatched John Higgins 4-1. Having been an early casualty in China last week, the South London man had plenty of time to prepare and two 70-plus breaks as well as two more in the 50s saw Hawkins over the line.
Ding Junhui 6-5 Barry Hawkins
68-12 (46), 66-1 (65), 33-75 (47), 105-8 (105), 67-27 (46), 19-71 (70), 0-80 (80), 2-72 (31), 67-18 (33), 0-112 (112), 68-22 (51)
Ding Junhui 4-2 Dominic Dale
72-48 (Ding 52), 79-2, 77-0 (Ding 77), 54-64 (Ding 54, Dale 58), 57-62 (Dale 49), 63-11
Barry Hawkins 4-1 John Higgins
75-1 (75), 8-83 (39, 44), 73-1 (57), 92-0 (73), 67-24 (58)
Group 2 Matches – Tuesday 4th November
Mark Selby v Steve Davis (13.00)
Judd Trump v Stephen Maguire (to follow)
(Best of 7 frames)