Mark Selby will play Mark Williams in the final of the China Open after contrasting semi-final victories in Beijing on Saturday.
Selby led from the outset, establishing 3-1 and 4-3 advantages only for his opponent to respond to keep the match alive, but the “Jester” ensured that he enjoyed the last laugh in a late finish at the University Students Gymnasium.
By contrast, Williams had it all his own way in a one-sided 6-1 defeat of Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, who was featuring in a ranking event semi-final for the first time in his career.
The 42 year-old compiled breaks of 103, 69, 62, and 52 as he romped to a comprehensive glory over the inexperienced Iranian, conqueror of defending champion Judd Trump in the quarter-finals.
Selby and Williams will now contest Sunday’s showdown, with a huge amount at stake for the latter in particular.
While Selby will be gunning for a fourth ranking event crown of the campaign, Williams will be seeking a first since overcoming the Englishman to lift the German Masters crown way back in 2011.
Arguably just as important as the prospect of collecting a 19th ranking event title, though, is the dangling carrot of an automatic spot at the World Championship should the Welshman pocket the £85,000 winner’s cheque.
The pair has met on numerous occasions throughout the last couple of decades and the record is very even, with Williams boasting just a single victory more than his fellow double world champion.
Selby hasn’t really produced his best this week but he has perfectly underlined why he has been the number one in the world for such a long period with his ability to progress through the rounds unscathed.
Against Williams the 33 year-old will certainly be the favourite for the title but he comes up against a competitor with a lot riding on this single tie.
Not only can Williams add a first ranking trophy in six years to his illustrious collection, and a record fourth China Open crown to boot, but being able to avoid the World Championship qualifiers at Ponds Forge is a massive motivation for success.
Countryman Ryan Day will be hiding behind the sofa with trepidation, as he tentatively holds on to the final guaranteed spot in 16th place in the world rankings.
Selby and Williams’ last encounter came in the last 16 of the Masters in January, with the former coming out on top in a dramatic final frame decider.
If this clash can go the distance the fans in China will be in for a treat as two of the best players ever lock horns in one of the longest running ranking tournaments on the calendar.
The form book would have to place Selby as the overwhelming favourite, particularly given the fact that Williams has failed at the business end of several events in recent seasons and has even questioned his own ability to earn any more silverware in major competitions.
But not many would have expected him to even get this far and, once in the position for victory, old habits might come to the fore at just the right time of this campaign.
Coverage of the showpiece will be live on both Eurosport and Quest TV.
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