David Gilbert remained on target for his first career ranking title as he beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open.
World number 29 Gilbert is already guaranteed his highest career pay day of £75,000, and he will double that to £150,000 if he can win Sunday’s final against Mark Williams or Noppon Saengkham. The title would shoot Gilbert into the world’s top 16 for the first time in his career, and also earn him a place in next month’s invitational Shanghai Masters. For more on that race click here.
Former tractor driver Gilbert reached his only previous final at the 2015 International Championship, also in China, where he lost 10-5 to John Higgins.
Breaks of 101 and 65 helped put Gilbert 3-0 up today, then world number seven Hawkins pulled one back with a 59 and made a 40 clearance in frame five to close the gap to 3-2. A run of 67 from Gilbert gave him frame six then Hawkins responded with a 91 for 4-3.
A scrappy eighth frame went Gilbert’s way and he had a chance for victory in frame nine but failed to get position on the final green, and Hawkins got the better of a safety exchange and cleared for 5-4. But Gilbert took control of the tenth with a break of 45, and when his opponent missed the third-last red he added the points he needed.
“I’m over the moon,” said Tamworth’s Gilbert. “For 90% of the match I played great, then the wheels came off towards the end and someone nearly had to pick me up off the floor. It means a lot because it’s a lot of money on offer.
“I didn’t think I could win a game here this week. I got lucky in the first round because Matthew Stevens pulled out with a bad back, that was a very tough draw for me.
“Last time when I got the final I only had about £10 to my name so I was just so happy to have £60,000 in my back pocket and I didn’t really think I could win. I was a bit in awe of John Higgins. Tomorrow I will have to play to the level I did for the first eight frames today, and then be stronger if I get close to the winning line. Hopefully I can just settle down, start well and get into the game.
“It would mean everything to me to win the title, the only thing I’ve always wanted to do is go home a winner. I haven’t won anything since the Tamworth Open about 25 years ago. To be in the top 16 as well would be where I’ve always wanted to be.”
Asked if he had any plans for the £75,000 he is already guaranteed, Gilbert joked: “My wife keeps telling me how bad my teeth are and she wants me to get a new set of dentures so I can smile in a picture with our little baby Taylor. Maybe she’ll talk me into that, but I quite like my teeth.”
Hawkins, who has now lost 15 of his 22 ranking semi-finals, said: “There was a new cloth on the table and I just couldn’t get used to it. The table played beautifully but the speed was different to how it was before. I’m disappointed to lose.”