Outsider Anthony Hamilton became the first semi-finalist in the Champion of Champions after emerging from his quarter of the draw on Monday.
Making his debut appearance in the lucrative invitational event at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, Hamilton took full advantage with a pair of hard-fought victories over more favoured competitors Ding Junhui and Ryan Day.
Just under two years ago, Hamilton was badly struggling on the main tour and was in real danger of falling off the circuit completely.
However, despite dropping outside the top 64, a few key victories late on in the 2015/16 campaign earned him his professional spot straight back thanks to the European Order of Merit.
The “Sheriff” took full advantage of his reprieve, rolling back the years with a superb season last year that saw him finally, after years of being referred to as the best player never to have won a ranking event, secure a major piece of silverware by triumphing in the German Masters in Berlin.
Hamilton’s unexpected exploits saw him make a meteoric rise back up the rankings into the top 32 and, only for a recurrence of a long-term back injury problem during the outset of this campaign, was fully expected to challenge for a place among the elite 16 with zero points to defend from his tally.
The Champion of Champions doesn’t count towards those rankings but Hamilton, who admitted that he was struggling to support himself at times during the lean years, is now guaranteed to take home a cheque worth £25,000.
In a group that also contained former World Championship runner-up Barry Hawkins, Hamilton was the obvious outsider but rose to the occasion with a pair of hard-fought victories.
The quality wasn’t pretty at times, although the 46 year-old did manage to compile an excellent 133 century break in his quarter-final win against Day, but Hamilton won’t mind too much about that.
After overcoming Ding Junhui in a drab first round tie 4-2, the Englishman fought back from two frames down to oust Riga Masters champion Day 6-4.
Day had produced a scintillating display in beating Barry Hawkins earlier in the afternoon with runs of 110, 103, 79, and 71, but he only managed one break above 50 in a scrappy affair with Hamilton.
The latter moves forward to the semi-finals and he’ll take on the winner of Thursday’s group, which contains all three former Champion of Champions – Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, and reigning champ John Higgins – as well as a second Scot in Anthony McGill.
Next up on Tuesday, though, will be the section comprising Shaun Murphy, Mark King, Marco Fu, and Michael White.
Fu opens the afternoon’s play with a clash against White, to be followed by Murphy’s fixture with King, who is another making his debut after an emotional ranking success last term.
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