John Higgins stepped up his bid to win back-to-back ranking titles in China by beating Noppon Saengkham 5-3 in the quarter-finals of the BAIC Motor China Open in Beijing.
Higgins now faces a semi-final clash on Saturday with Ricky Walden, who beat World Champion Stuart Bingham 5-1.
Scotland’s Higgins is seeking his third ranking title of the season having won the Australian Goldfields Open in July and the International Championship in China in November. Victory this week would put the 40-year-old on 29 career ranking titles, moving him ahead of Steve Davis and Ronnie O’Sullivan on the all-time list.
Higgins built a 4-0 lead over Saengkham with top breaks of 62 and 75. Thailand’s Saengkham, playing in the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the first time, threatened a fight back when he won the next three frames with top runs of 56 and 77. But Higgins took the next with two breaks of 43.
Higgins said: “Noppon missed a few balls early in the match and let me get control. Then he showed his class after the interval and started to hit the ball very well. He played with a lot of confidence and I thought it might go 4-4, so I was very relieved to win.
“I’ve had a bad back this week but it’s totally fine now. I have to thank the Chinese person who fixed it.
“Ricky came close to winning the last tournament so he must be feeling good about his game. I’ll just try to play my game. We get on well but there will be no friendship on the table tomorrow.”
Walden enjoyed a return to form at least week’s Players Championship when he reached the final before losing to Mark Allen, and he has continued his momentum in the Far East. His emphatic win over Bingham was highlighted by breaks of 60, 55, 67 and 79. Defeat for Bingham means he will go into the defence of his world crown this month without a title under his belt this season.
Chester’s Walden said: “It was my day today, it was a tough game and I had to fight for every frame. I had a bit of luck in fluking the yellow in the second frame which helped me go 2-0 up.
“I haven’t played great this week, I’m just trying hard to get through my games and I’m delighted to be in the semi-finals. Hopefully I can play better tomorrow.”
Bingham said: “I’m disappointed by the way I played. I said at the start of this week if I got to the quarter-finals it would be a good week. I feel as if I’m playing well so it would have been nice to go further. But I’m really looking forward to Sheffield now.”