Barry Hawkins and Ryan Day will clash in the final of the World Grand Prix after emerging from contrasting semi-finals in Preston.
On Friday evening, Hawkins compiled a brace of centuries in a comfortable 6-1 victory over Liang Wenbo, maintaining his excellent run of form this week in general.
The ‘Hawk’ had earlier also confidently dispatched of Kyren Wilson, Judd Trump, and Neil Robertson, dropping just six frames en route to Sunday’s showdown.
Day, by contrast, staged a remarkable comeback to deny Marco Fu in the second last four encounter at the Guild Hall.
After a high-scoring start to the match in which Fu constructed breaks of 125 and 123, it looked as though the Hong Konger had taken control when he duly won a scrappy sixth frame on the black to establish a two-frame cushion at 4-2.
Day immediately reduced the arrears to a single frame but the situation was looking desperate for the Welshman when he was on the brink of losing the eighth frame.
Requiring four snookers, Day subsequently tied Fu up in knots, slowly pulling his way back into the frame as his opponent fouled, left a free ball, and even went in-off with the cue ball.
With the points he needed accrued, Day cleared for an unbelievable steal and from that point seemed destined to reach his fourth ranking event final.
Fu, who quickly lost the next frame to trail 5-4, had an opportunity to force a decider but, evidently struggling with tip problems, failed to make the correct contract when going up for the yellow – allowing Day the chance to clinch victory.
Only Hawkins now stands in Day’s path of finally fulfilling his ambition of becoming a ranking event champion.
It certainly seems the season for it, with Liang Wenbo, Mark King, and Anthony Hamilton all silencing the doubters during this campaign alone.
For the best part of 15 years, Hamilton carried the mantle of being the best player to have never won a tournament of this status, but at 45 emerged triumphant in the German Masters seven days ago.
Day quickly became, in many people’s eyes, the new face of the backhanded compliment, yet the 36 year-old could now immediately hand it over to some other unwilling pretender, if he can hold himself together for one more outing.
Whether Hamilton’s victory has had any bearing on Day’s displays this week is debatable, but the former world no.6 certainly has looked more up for the task at hand than in recent times during his career, when he has often been accused of wilting under the pressure.
Against Hawkins, Day comes up against a man in form but one who is perhaps hoping to answer a few questions about himself as well.
The Englishman has been one of the most consistent players on the Main Tour this season but threw away a big lead in losing to King in the final of the Northern Ireland Open, and repeated the trick against Perry in the Masters semi-finals last month.
Hawkins also led Hamilton 4-3 in the quarter-finals of the German Masters before losing in a third decider, so question marks definitely surround the 37 year-old’s ability to get it done when it’s tight and twitchy.
Also potentially working in Day’s favour is the fact that he has a superior head-to-head record against the two-time ranking event winner.
In 14 previous meetings outside the Championship League, Day has prevailed in nine and lost just five, albeit Hawkins managed to reign in their last bout at the English Open in October.
The latter, a former World Championship runner-up of course, will be hoping to avail of his greater experience at the business end of tournaments but will be desperate to pull away quickly, as any dogfight could result in another destined fairy tale in what has been a season already full of them.
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