There will be four Chinese debutants at this year’s Betfred World Championship after Zhao Xintong, Luo Honghao, Tian Pengfei and Li Hang progressed at qualifying in Sheffield.
They join Asian number one Ding Junhui and Zhou Yuelong in tomorrow’s draw, meaning that there will be a record six Chinese players at the Crucible this year, beating the previous best of five set in 2017.
Zhao Xintong secured his debut with a sensational display to beat Indian Open champion Matthew Selt 10-4.
The 22-year-old has reinvigorated his game this term. He dropped off the tour at the end of last season, before immediately securing his return through Q School. Since then he has enjoyed a superb campaign, reaching a maiden ranking event semi-final at the 2018 China Championship and making the last eight of the 2019 Welsh Open.
Zhao’s improvement hasn’t come at the expense of his quickfire and attacking style of play. He’s second only to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in terms of average shot time this season. He overpowered Selt today with his break building, making contributions of 51, 54, 124, 79, 72, 51, 103, 72 and 56 on his way to victory.
“I played very well in this match. I had more confidence than in the last two rounds. I made a lot of breaks which gave me that confidence,” said Zhao. “It will be very exciting to play at the Crucible, but I’ll maybe a little bit nervous because it is my first time there.”
2018 WSF Amateur Champion Luo Honghao booked his maiden trip to the Crucible with a narrow 10-8 win over Tom Ford.
The talented 19-year-old produced a fine display to secure his progression. Luo composed runs of 57, 64, 61, 54, 60, 106 and 66 on his way to the impressive victory.
Luo had already showcased his ability in an enthralling battle against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals of the English Open earlier this season. He eventually lost out 5-3, but has stated he would like to face the Rocket in his opening match at the Crucible.
Luo said: “Every top 16 player is better than me, so it is no different playing Ronnie O’Sullivan. I just have to learn and enjoy the match. I want to play against my idol. I really love Ronnie, so I want to face him at the Crucible.”
Tian Pengfei survived a Matthew Stevens fightback to progress with a narrow 10-8 victory.
This was 2015 Ruhr Open finalist Tian’s 11th attempt to qualify for the World Championship and it had looked like he may have to wait another year, when two-time finalist Stevens started to cut away at his significant lead.
Tian held a 9-3 advantage, before Stevens crafted breaks of 114, 95, 67, 60 and 143 as he claimed five frames in a row to make it 9-8. However, Tian showed his character by making a contribution of 56 to take the match and prevent a deciding frame.
“I was 9-3 up, but for the next five frames he didn’t really give me any chances. It did give me a lot of pressure. I am really lucky to win this game. Matthew is a good player,” said Tian. “I thought it would go to a decider, there was so much pressure in that last frame. I haven’t ever experienced anything like that before.”
Li Hang came through a hard fought battle with Ben Woollaston 10-8 to book his Crucible debut. The 2017 China Championship semi-finalist won two frames in a row from 8-8 to clinch the victory.
A relieved Scott Donaldson won an epic deciding frame to edge past Lu Ning 10-9 and book his Crucible debut.
The Scot held a 9-4 advantage, before China’s Lu dug deep to force his way back into the tie and take the match to a final frame.
Donaldson appeared to be over the line when he held a 64-24 advantage, with his opponent needing two snookers. Lu managed to get them, but Donaldson held his nerve and composure to pot the final red and a yellow to secure victory. That win means that in total there will be seven debutants at this year’s World Championship.
Donaldson said: “I’ve never felt like that in my life. I could hardly breath out there. I have no idea how I managed to make that break in the last frame. You realise that is why you have to put in hour after hour every day. We can all play well when there is no pressure. I can’t believe I won that game. First of all I can’t believe I nearly lost it, now I can’t believe I won it.”
Graeme Dott won his 15th consecutive World Championship qualifying match, beating Norway’s Kurt Maflin 10-2 to reach the Crucible.
Scotland’s 2006 World Champion will now appear in the final stages of the World Championship for the 20th time in his career. The wins for Dott and Donaldson now mean there will be five Scottish players at the Crucible, as they join Anthony McGill, John Higgins and Stephen Maguire.
41-year-old Dott has shown impressive form this week, dropping just eight of the 38 frames he has played.
“I played really well. This year is probably the best I’ve played at the qualifiers. I had one bad session against Xu Si, but other than that I’ve played really well in the three matches,” said Dott. “When they changed the format to three matches five years ago, I started to think I might never get back because it is a hard three games. To win 15 matches in a row and come through every year is really impressive.”
Joe Perry eased past Martin O’Donnell 10-3 to book his Crucible place. The Gentleman enjoyed an even more dominant week than Dott, losing just five of his 35 frames. He thrashed Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg and China’s Zhang Yong by 10-1 scorelines in the earlier rounds.
Ali Carter booked his place at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams with a 10-4 defeat of world number 102 John Astley.
The Captain has now reached the final stages for 17 consecutive years, having never missed the Crucible since 2002.
The draw for the final stages will take place at 11am tomorrow. You can watch it live on our YouTube and Facebook channels. For further details click here.