Snooker News

China Championship: Semi-Final Preview

Luca Brecel produced a stunning comeback to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-4, advancing to the last four of the China Championship in Guangzhou.

Luca Brecel Wales

Brecel is currently ranked 27th in the world rankings. Photo credit: Monique Limbos.

The Belgian looked out of it when he trailed the “Rocket” 4-1 but launched a sterling fight back that began with consecutive century breaks of 110 and 103.

Both players had chances in the last two frames as O’Sullivan tried to hold on for the victory but Brecel rode his luck to claim one of the best victories of his career so far.

For O’Sullivan, it’s another disappointing conclusion to a ranking event that had been promising a lot after several of his major rivals went by the wayside in the early rounds.

The 41 year-old hasn’t captured a ranking trophy since the 2016 Welsh Open and it’s beginning to look harder and harder for him to attain the silverware that was once second nature.

Brecel might yet have all of those rewards ahead of him as he searches for a maiden success of such status.

The 22 year-old has been much-hyped ever since he was a young teen but has mostly failed to deliver on the Main Tour despite some flickering glimpses of his obvious potential.

The highlight of his tenure on the circuit was undoubtedly his run to the final of last year’s German Masters, where he just about fell short against England’s Martin Gould.

Brecel has watched Gould and many others around him break their ranking event duck in recent seasons and a lot of commentators have predicted that this could be the former European amateur champion’s campaign to finally achieve the goal.

Standing in his way of a second ranking event final berth is the last home challenge from China in Li Hang.

Li staged a remarkable turnaround in his own right as he reversed a 3-0 deficit to oust Mark Williams 5-3.

The 26 year-old was featuring in a debut quarter-final and his nerves showed at the outset of the contest as he drifted way behind the twice former world champion.

However, a run of 66 calmed the nerves before the interval and he grew in confidence thereafter, helped by a 103 in the penultimate frame.

It’ll be new territory again for Li on Monday as he plays in the one table set-up for the first time while it also marks a first meeting ever against Brecel, so it will be interesting to see who can hold their nerve together the best with so much on the line.

Meanwhile, earlier on Sunday English duo Shaun Murphy and Ali Carter set up a semi-final tie against each other after respective 5-2 triumphs.

Murphy ended 19 year-old Zhou Yuelong’s challenge while Carter accounted for Irish veteran Fergal O’Brien.

The “Magician” and the “Captain” have a long history of competition dating back to their first meeting at the 2000 Benson and Hedges Championship.

Murphy gained the upper hand then but it has been Carter who has boasted the superior head-to-head record overall and has emerged victorious in the pair’s last three affairs in events carrying ranking points.

Unusually, all three of those wins were determined in deciders with Carter’s most recent glory coming in the Players Championship earlier this year.

That said, Murphy will have fond memories of their 2012 UK Championship clash when the 35 year-old strung together the last five frames for an unlikely 9-8 victory in York.

With two relative novices at this stage of proceedings in the other semi-final, Murphy and Carter, with 11 ranking crowns between them, will surely feel like this is a massive opportunity to add to their collections.

Either way, it’s not the final four line-up that we would have expected at the start of play last Wednesday but there’s still set to be an intriguing climax to the China Championship nonetheless.

Coverage continues on Eurosport and the Eurosport Player.

Click here to view the draw.

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