Ding Junhui became the first man into the semi-finals of this year’s World Championship after thrashing Mark Williams 13-3 in Sheffield.
The Chinese no.1 required only two out of the scheduled three sessions to oust the twice former champion as he sent out a message to the other contenders for this year’s title.
Welshman Williams was obviously nowhere near his best but Ding scored heavily throughout and, apart from when the scores were tied at 2-2 during the first mid-session interval, the result was never in doubt.
Ding’s highest break was a 109 but he compiled 11 further half centuries as destroyed the chances of the 41 year-old.
Williams appeared to have trouble with both his tip and the table conditions but there was little he could do as a relaxed Ding dominated the tie.
Ding is now into the last four for only the second time in his career but looks to be growing in sufficient enough confidence to seriously challenge for a maiden world crown.
There has been much expectation surrounding the 29 year-old at the Crucible in the past, something he has often struggled with as the pressure from his native China especially has been too much for him to handle.
However, after a prolonged spell in the doldrums, Ding returned to form at the tail end of this season with runs to the business end of the Welsh Open, World Grand Prix and Players Championship.
Even though he failed to qualify for the China Open, therefore dropping out of the top 16 in the world rankings and having to attend World Championship qualification at Ponds Forge, Ding used those three matches as a suitable warm up for the real deal this fortnight.
And Ding has never seemed more content with his aspirations in Sheffield than he has done so far in 2016.
The 11-time ranking event champion awaits the winner of the all-Scottish battle between John Higgins and Alan McManus.
The latter got off to a superb start with runs of 118, 78 and 56 helping him into an early 3-1 lead but Higgins took advantage of the scrappier frames to reel off four in a row and establish a two-frame overnight cushion of his own.
Meanwhile, Barry Hawkins didn’t recover well following his dramatic success over tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan on Monday, losing the first six frames and eventually trailing Marco Fu 7-1 after the opening bout of play.
Fu has gone about his business quietly so far and looks set to reach the last four for only the second time in his career.
Finally, Mark Selby also won the first six frames in his encounter with Kyren Wilson and, even though the Shanghai Masters champion forged a comeback to be only two frames down at 6-8, the Leicester supporter won the last couple of frames in the second session to boast a 10-6 advantage.
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