Barry Hawkins reached the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the fifth time since 2013 by beating Ding Junhui 13-5.
World number six Hawkins fired two centuries and eight more breaks over 50 in an emphatic win over third seed Ding. London’s 39-year-old Hawkins now meets Mark Williams or Ali Carter over 33 frames on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a place in the final.
Crucible specialist Hawkins has now won 18 matches at the famous venue since 2013; no other player has won as many matches over the same period, including three-time champion Mark Selby. That’s a remarkable turnaround for a player who lost in the first round in his first five appearances at the Crucible from 2006 to 2010.
With a tremendous all round game and steady temperament, three-time ranking event winner Hawkins has all the attributes to go one step further than he did in 2013 when he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.
He led 11-5 going into today’s final session, and won a scrappy opening frame today before finishing the match with a break of 117.
“It’s a little bit surreal really,” said Hawkins, who made a slow start to the current season but showed consistency in recent weeks by reaching the final of the Welsh Open and China Open. “I was expecting a really tough game there from Ding, but I got a nice bit of momentum and to beat him 13-5 is a great result.
“I felt like he gave up in the end, his body language suggested that he didn’t fancy the job today. It was important for me to get it over and done with because a lot of funny things can happen in this place. I’ve got to give myself credit. I put him under pressure, and he wasn’t used to that in this tournament so far.
“Even though I’m playing well now, I know how easy it is to have a bad couple of sessions and before you know it you’re going home. I can’t get too carried away because I know exactly what can happen. I’m in the semis, there will be only four of us left, and I’ve got a chance.
“Mark Williams and Ali Carter are both great players. Ali is having a great tournament, he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan and is playing really well. Mark Williams has had the season of his life. It’s going to be really tough against either player.”
China’s Ding will have to wait another year to continue his quest to become the first Asian player to win the world title. He said: “I missed too many chances in and around the black ball area. My position wasn’t good. I didn’t put enough pressure on Barry and he punished me heavily.
“Some days you play well, some days are different. I tried to play well and score heavily but what can I say? It wasn’t working out there.
“Barry’s got enough experience here. He’s got a good record here and he’ll have a lot of confidence to go on and win it.
“I believe I can still win this one day. I’ll always keep up my hopes and I’ll never give up. I’m a sportsman, I can’t give up.”
Meanwhile, John Higgins and Judd Trump look set for a blockbuster conclusion to their quarter-final battle as they finished the second session tied at 8-8. They resume at 7pm with first to 13 frames to go through to the semis.
Trump led 5-3 overnight and took the first frame this morning with a break of 89. In the next he made a brilliant 64 clearance to force a respotted black, and potted it after Higgins had missed a good chance to a baulk corner.
Trailing 7-3, Higgins needed to draw on memories of the 2011 final when he came from 12-9 down to beat Trump 18-15, and he did just that, winning five frames in a row. Breaks of 65, 61, 53 and 56 got Higgins back to 7-6, then he won a dramatic 14th frame by fluking the final green and adding brown, blue and pink.
Four-time Crucible king Higgins took the lead for the first time in the match by winning frame 15 with a break of 51. And he had chances in the last of the session, but Trump eventually took it to leave them all square.