World number 80 Fan Zhengyi kept his astonishing run going at the BetVictor European Masters as he beat former World Champion Graeme Dott 6-4 to reach the 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.”