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Ding on Course to Conquer Yixing

The first event of the 2014/15 campaign is reaching its conclusion with the large field in the Yixing Open whittled down to the final four.

The Asian Tour tournament in China kicks off what is sure to be another frantic and frenetic season on the baize.

Of course, we have already had some action with the opening stages of the Wuxi Classic and the Australian Open, but Yixing will provide us with our maiden champion of the campaign with the first piece of silverware being collected.

The Asian satellite competitions are generally known for not boasting the strongest of entry lists but several of the bigger names were present this time around in the hope of gaining some vital match practice ahead of the upcoming brace of ranking events.

And while usually in these events we would see a member of the amateur circuit feature in the last four, or at least someone way down the Main Tour rankings, on this occasion a quartet of star names make up the two semi-finals.

China’s own Ding Junhui has put the disappointment of failing to reach his hometown event in Wuxi, as well as some other mishaps between himself and the governing body, well and truly behind him and looks to be in a good position to start off this season in the same way he dominated much of the last – by winning titles.

Four 4-1 wins over tricky competitors before a gritty 4-2 triumph over Jamie Burnett ensures that the 27 year-old will fight for the trophy on Saturday.

Standing in his way of a place in the final is Ryan Day, who will be hoping to build on what was a positive run of form in 2013/14 that re-established himself as a consistently credible opponent once again.

The second clash will see two-time PTC event winner Michael Holt come up against Gloucester’s Robert Milkins.

Milkins inflicted Scott Donaldson’s first defeat of the new season – having until this point won his opening nine bouts – while Holt fired in a century break of 135 en route to a tight 4-3 thriller over Li Hang in the quarter-finals.

Many players will remain rusty for a while yet as they recover from what was a short, albeit very needed, break from the game.

Therefore, any significant result at this stage should not necessarily point to someone enjoying a glittering year overall.

That said, it’s certainly nice to get into the winner’s enclosure early on and the confidence that can breed is surely what each of these four players are striving for now.

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Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.