John Higgins continued his bid to win his second ranking title of the season with a 6-3 victory over Joe Perry at the International Championship in Daqing.
Wishaw’s Higgins made a fine start to the current season by winning the Australian Goldfields Open, and if he goes on to victory in China this week it would give him a 28th career ranking title, putting him ahead of Ronnie O’Sullivan and level with Steve Davis.
First he faces a semi-final clash over 17 frames on Saturday with world number one Mark Selby, who saw off Neil Robertson 6-4. The winner will meet Thepchaiya Un-Nooh or David Gilbert on Sunday to contest the £125,000 top prize.
Four-time World Champion Higgins, who turned 40 this year, was impeccable in a 6-0 defeat of Shaun Murphy yesterday and looked to be heading for another whitewash today when he took the first four frames with a top break of 106. Perry battled back after the interval and won three of the next four frames, only for Higgins to seal victory in the ninth by converting a difficult pot on the pink to a baulk corner and adding the black.
“Joe was coming back strongly and I was missing a few pressure shots so I was pleased to pot a good pink and then the black to win,” said Higgins. “The pink was one of my best ever shots. If it had gone 5-4 Joe would have got stronger. I felt nervous towards the end. I’m scoring well in this tournament and I’ll need that against Selby. He will be favourite to win but I’ll be trying my best.
“I played in the Asian Tour event last week to get used to the time difference and that has helped me. This has probably taken over as the second biggest tournament on the calendar after the World Championship.”
Selby pulled out of the last ranking event, the Shanghai Masters, following the death of his father in law
Selby, chasing his first title of the season, opened with a break of 100 against Robertson before losing the next two frames. Leicester’s Selby then won three in a row with top runs of 52 and 75 to lead 4-2. The next two were shared then Australia’s Robertson made a 127 to close to 5-4. But Selby dominated frame ten and clinched the tie with a run of 40.
“I knew it would be a tough game,” said Selby. “It will be just as tough against John in the semis, he’s one of the all-time greats. We’ve had a lot of good matches in the past and I’m sure this will be another one. It’s just a matter of who plays best on the day.”