Barry Hawkins continued his return to form with a 5-1 win over Yan Bingtao and will now face Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham in the semi-finals of the ManBetX Welsh Open.
World number eight Hawkins has had a poor season by his standards – today’s match was his first ranking quarter-final of the campaign. But the 38-year-old has shown signs of his best this week and is now just two wins away from landing a fourth ranking title.
His hopes of qualifying for the lucrative Players Championship are still alive and he could book a place in Llandudno by taking the £70,000 top prize this week.
China’s promising 18-year-old Yan won the opening frame with a break of 54 then Londoner Hawkins hit back with 74 and 137 to lead 2-1. Yan led 44-16 in the fourth but his opponent crucially made a 48 clearance to make it 3-1 at the interval. A tremendous 141 total clearance extended his advantage and he sealed the result in frame six with runs of 60 and 41.
“I was pleased with the result and even more with the performance,” said Hawkins after reaching his fourth Welsh Open semi-final. “I made a good clearance to win the fourth frame and that was the big moment. I didn’t give Yan many chances.
“I am getting matches under my belt and playing more consistently now. Confidence is all it is. I have to stay focused now and keep playing like that.
“I have watched Noppon a few times, he has put in some great performances and beaten some good players. He is dangerous.”
Saengkham reached the last four of a ranking event for the first time by beating Ian Burns 5-3. The first two frames were shared, then 25-year old Saengkham pulled away to lead 4-1 with runs of 87, 55 and 67.
Preston’s Burns battled back, making a 131 to take frame six and winning a scrappy seventh to close to 4-3. In the eighth, Saengkham took eight reds with blacks then ran out of position in potting the ninth red, boldly trying to stay on track for a 147. But he soon got back in and added 32 for victory.
Now the highest ranked Thai player at 58th in the world, Saengkham started playing snooker in his native Bangkok at the age of 14 and had a superb amateur career, winning the World and Asian under-21 titles. The Sheffield-based player is now showing his potential on the pro scene.
“I’m very happy to reach my first semi-final,” he said. “There will be more pressure on me tomorrow but if I can keep my concentration I can do well. It will be tough but I will try my best.
“I have to say thank you to James Wattana because I practise with him, he teaches me a lot of things like how to keep control under pressure. He’s a very good guy. I will have to talk to him before the match tomorrow because he has so much experience and he has won big tournaments.”