DING JUNHUI became the first player through to the final four of the Dafabet Champion of Champions event in Coventry after squeezing past Barry Hawkins in a final frame decider.
The Chinese superstar raced into a 4-1 lead in the final of their Group 1 encounter at the Ricoh Arena on Monday.
But Hawkins fought back into the match with breaks of 70 and 80 to level at 4-4. They shared the next two frames to set up a decider and Ding’s run of 51 was enough to carry him to victory and into Saturday’s semi-final.
“I had a good start, went 4-1 ahead, then he started to play some good safeties and he wasn’t missing anything.” said a relieved Ding.
“I had two bad safeties in two frames and his confidence was coming back. There wasn’t too much pressure today and I always believe myself that I can win.
“I did well with my concentration on the game. I didn’t feel too much pressure when he was coming back and making big breaks. Maybe he thought the pressure was returning to me, but what I thought was different.
“I will practise for the rest of the week but I will watch when I can and on Wednesday evening I will watch Wednesday’s group final to see if it is Ronnie I will play next.”
For Hawkins, it was a poor start which ultimately cost him dear and the 2013 world finalist admits he gave Ding an easy start.
He added: “I missed a couple of half chances and left Ding in the balls too easily at the start. I played quite well after that and it was a pretty good game.
“There weren’t many balls missed but it was disappointing not to get a chance at the end.
“I got back to 4-4 and missed the blue off the spot. I shouldn’t have missed that and it was a bit of a turning point because I had come back and was starting to get on top, he was starting to struggle.
“I came back with a good frame to go 5-5 with a nice century but then made a couple of bad safeties in the last frame.”
Earlier in the day Ding had beaten Coventry-born Dominic Dale 4-2 to clinch a spot in the evening match while Hawkins dispatched John Higgins 4-1.
It’s the second year of the £270,000 event which sees all winners of World Snooker tournaments over the past 12 months compete over six days live on ITV4. The field is topped up via the Official World Rankings.
Today (Tuesday) world champion Mark Selby faces six-time world champion Steve Davis and Judd Trump takes on Stephen Maguire in Group 2.