Mark Selby is through to the final of the International Championship after a 9-3 thrashing of Martin Gould on Friday.
Selby moved a single victory away from repeating his success in Daqing from twelve months ago after a dominant display against his fellow Englishman.
Both cueists were making a first semi-final appearance of the season after slow starts to the campaign.
But Selby commanded the encounter, growing in stature and substance as he so often does when he reaches the business end of tournaments.
The 34 year-old is the runaway world number one partly because of his two recent World Championship triumphs that provided two mammoth cheques, but also because of his ability to perform at his best in the other lucrative ranking events on the calendar.
Selby won this competition last year before collecting another £150,000 winner’s purse at the UK Championship in York, and the same offering will be taken if he can prevail in Sunday’s showdown again.
The Leicester cueist thrives on the big occasion and simply knows how to bring his A-game, or at the very least his most prominent battling attributes, to the fore when it matters the most.
Gould, the 2016 German Masters champion, took the opening frame of the match but it was one-way traffic thereafter as the game began to run away from him.
Selby rode his luck a little in the early exchanges but started to motor in the fourth frame, when a superb 119 provided him with a 3-1 mid-session advantage.
When the “Jester” returned he duly knocked in a terrific 127 and further runs of 59 and 72 helped him to a first session lead of 7-1.
It was always going to be tough for Gould to mount any sort of a comeback, particularly against somebody of such granite, and a 97 from his opponent heaped further misery on the 36 year-old.
Yet, to his credit Gould fought on gallantly and salvaged some pride with an excellent 95 to stop the rot before he snatched the next frame on the black to prolong the clash.
The revival was brief, though, and despite a late miniature wobble Selby coasted passed the winning post for a resounding result.
Selby awaits the winner of the second last four clash, which takes place on Saturday between 2014 runner-up Mark Allen and 17 year-old Yan Bingtao – undoubtedly the player of the tournament so far.
Yan, who accounted for Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round, recorded another huge scalp on Thursday by ousting 2015 winner John Higgins 6-2 in the last eight and has shown no signs of fear this week despite his lack of experience on the big stage.
If the 2014 world amateur champion goes on to win the trophy at the weekend, he’ll beat O’Sullivan’s 24-year record of being the youngest ever ranking event champion.
Allen will represent another stern challenge, though, with the Northern Irishman finally back in form this season after a prolonged spell in the doldrums.
The three-time ranking event winner failed to make a single semi-final appearance throughout the entire last season but has already notched two in this one – both coming in China.
The 31 year-old came close to capturing this title three years ago before being narrowly edged out by Ricky Walden in the final, so will be hoping to go one better on this occasion.
Allen’s only prior tie with Yan ended in defeat at last year’s English Open, but that materialised over the much shorter best of seven frames guise.
Whoever wins, his task will become that much greater in the final with the prospect of a back-in-form Mark Selby to come.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)
Pingback: International Championship Final: Mark Selby vs Mark Allen – SnookerHQ