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Sizzling Xintong Brings Down Hawk

Chinese prodigy Zhao Xintong came from 3-1 down to beat Barry Hawkins 5-4 and reach the semi-finals of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.

Zhao, age 21, followed up yesterday’s victory over Mark Williams with an equally impressive win over Hawkins as he kept his best ever ranking event run going. On Saturday he’ll face world number one Mark Selby – a 5-2 winner over Yuan Sijun – for a place in Sunday’s final, where a top prize of £150,000 will be up for grabs.

Hawkins made breaks of 69 and 52 in taking a 3-1 lead. After the interval world number 97 Zhao, ranked 90 places below his opponent, won a scrappy fifth frame then made an 86 in the next for 3-3. Hawkins regained the lead with an 85 but didn’t score a point in the last two frames as Zhao fired runs of 94 and 82.

“I didn’t play well during the first half of the match,” said Zhao, who dropped off the pro tour last season but bounced straight back via Q School in May. “There were many spectators cheering me on which gave me pressure to perform. Towards the end I managed to adjust and I played as if I was in practice. I played my own game and left my opponent few chances in the last two frames.

“I’ve always believed in my technique but I don’t think I have the ability to turn games around when they are not going well. Many of the young players get stuck at this point and are not able to improve. But luckily for me I have done it now.

“I won’t be as nervous playing against Selby. There’s less chance for me to beat the world number one so I’ll just relax and enjoy the match.”

Selby reached the 40th ranking semi-final of his career with a comfortable 5-2 win over 18-year-old Yuan. The first four frames were shared then Leicester’s Selby seized control after the interval and took three in a row with 86, 64 and 70. He is looking to win his seventh ranking event in China and fifth within the past two years.

“From 2-2 I shut him out and scored when I needed to,” said 35-year-old Selby, who is sure to build his lead at the top of the world rankings following the exit of nearest challenger Mark Williams. “I feel as if I am close to playing really well, although the conditions are tough so you can’t play faultless snooker.

“It is incredible to see so many Chinese players coming through now. It will be tough against Zhao tomorrow and I haven’t slept well since I have been here, so hopefully I will get a good rest tonight and be ready for it.”

Saturday’s semi-finals
7am BST: John Higgins v Lyu Haotian
12.30pm BST: Mark Selby v Zhao Xintong