Stephen Maguire reached the semi-finals of the BAIC China Open and rescued his place in the top 16, at the expense of Ding Junhui.
Glasgow’s Maguire beat Alfie Burden 5-1 today and is now sure of an automatic place in the final stages of the World Championship later this month, while Ding will have to win three qualifying matches to reach the Crucible.
China’s Ding won five ranking events during the 2013/14 season, bringing his career tally to 11, but has since struggled for form and dropped down the rankings. In recent weeks he reached at least the quarter-finals of three consecutive ranking events to boost his top 16 hopes, but a first round defeat against Lee Walker this week in Beijing left him vulnerable in the provisional rankings.
And Maguire’s run to the semis, thanks to wins over Gary Wilson, Jack Lisowski, Dominic Dale and Burden, leaves Ding facing a trip to Ponds Forge in Sheffield next week to attempt to negotiate the qualifying minefield. It will be his first appearance in the world qualifiers since 2007.
A 62 clearance gave Maguire the opening frame today, and though he lost the the second, the five-time ranking event winner then took four in a row with top breaks of 88 and 74.
“I’m just over the moon, I don’t think I have felt pressure like that before,” said 35-year-old Maguire after reaching his first ranking event semi-final in nine months. “All day I have been feeling it because it was such a big match.”
Maguire has beaten four players ranked outside the top 32 to reach the semis but rejected a suggestion that he’d had a fortunate draw. “That hasn’t even crossed my mind and it wouldn’t be fair on the players who I’ve played because they are all there on merit,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy draw. In my first match I used a new cue, which I’d only picked up last Tuesday, so I wasn’t thinking about who I was playing. It’s just amazing that I’ve reached the semi-finals. I can relax tomorrow, the tournament starts again for me now. If I lose I will still have had a great week.”
Today is Ding’s 29th birthday and Maguire joked: “I don’t think I’ll be his best friend right now. I knew coming into the match it was me or him. To have to win three matches to get to the Crucible is very tough and he has got the short straw. It will be a shame for the World Championship if he doesn’t make it. Those three matches will be tough and it’s by no means certain that he will qualify.”
In the semi-finals tomorrow, Maguire will face Judd Trump, who beat Mark King 5-3. Trump made a top break of 93, in the second frame, and later won three consecutive frames from 3-2 down.
“I didn’t play as well as I did yesterday,” said Trump. “Mark King always makes it hard for you so I’m just happy to win. At 3-2 down I was a bit worried but I controlled the last three frames, You can’t play well every day. I’m excited about the semi-finals now. When it goes down to one table I usually play my best.”
In the other semi, John Higgins meets Ricky Walden.