A high-quality quartet make up the final four in the Haining Open as the first and potentially only Asian Tour event of the campaign nears its conclusion.
In a busy day of action in China, home favourite Ding Junhui won three matches, two of which in deciding frame thrillers, to embark on his first semi-final appearance of the season.
Ding is seeking his first piece of silverware since the opening AT tournament of last year, which came immediately after his stunning 2013/14 campaign that saw him claim five main ranking event titles.
That all seems like a lifetime ago now, though, and the 28 year-old will simply be happy to be featuring in the business end of competitions again following a dismal last campaign – even if it is one that lacks the majority of the elite.
After pipping Peter Lines 4-3, Ding then overcame Mark King 4-1 before another close finish ensued in his bout with countryman Zhang Anda.
Ding needed to come from behind with breaks of 130 and 55 helping him to the narrowest of triumphs.
In the last four he’ll meet Jimmy Robertson, who continues his improvement over the course of the last year or so with a second successive run to the semi-finals in Haining City.
Robertson’s path mirrored Ding’s, with a pair of 4-3 triumphs sandwiching a 4-1 success against Xiao Guodong.
In the last eight he withheld a spirited comeback from 3-0 down by Thepchaiya Un-Nooh of Thailand before sealing victory in the seventh and final frame.
The bottom half of the draw has two Englishmen in Ricky Walden and Robert Milkins going head-to-head for a place in Friday’s final.
Milkins enjoyed a good victory over Ben Woollaston, who earlier in the day dispatched of Australian Open champion John Higgins, while Walden put an end to amateur Leo Fernandez’s superb run in the quarter-finals.
The Irishman had previously knocked out Chinese duo Li Hang and Tian Pengfei, the latter by reversing a 3-1 deficit to claim a dramatic triumph on the colours.
The results for Fernandez, a former pro who once lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round of the World Championship at the Crucible, this week could be massive for him and the rest of his career.
Contrary to what I wrote in the last article and to what I had been carelessly uttering on Twitter throughout the morning, reaching the quarter-finals does not guarantee him a place at the lucrative Players Championship later in the season.
This is because of amendments made to the qualifying criteria once it was becoming clear that the Asian Tour series was being reduced.
That’s all a little complicated but basically Fernandez will have to continue to perform well on the European Tour if he has a chance of earning an invite into the Players Championship.
You can read the full lowdown on that more clearly over at ProSnookerBlog here.
However, should there not be any further events added to this Asian Tour season, Fernandez could be in line for a Main Tour position for the next campaign following his deep run this week.
That is because all the other quarter-finalists, bar Zhang Anda, will probably remain inside the top 64 at the end of the season, therefore keeping their professional status via that avenue, while Zhang and Fernandez will potentially receive the two available invitations via the Asian Tour.
If a second event is added to the series it will significantly complicate an already complicated matter but let’s deal with that if and when it comes.