China Championship semi-final
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Preview: China Championship Semi-Final

There are four players still in with an opportunity in this week’s ranking event with the China Championship semi-final stage set for Saturday in Guangzhou.

Mark Selby’s reign just about continues after a marathon 5-4 victory over Barry Hawkins that concluded after midnight local time.

The Leicester man will face the in-form Shaun Murphy, with the recent International Championship and Shanghai Masters runner-up withstanding the challenge of Kurt Maflin.

Mark Williams and Hossein Vafaei are the other two semi-finalists after overcoming David Gilbert and Joe Perry respectively.

The Williams and Vafaei encounter represents one in which both players have varying degrees of experience at this stage of a tournament.

While the former has been a regular fixture in the last four and beyond of major tournaments throughout his illustrious career, for Vafaei it’s just a third time getting this far.

The 25 year-old is a former world amateur champion and is regularly tipped to make the jump from a player who makes up the numbers to one who could potentially star among the higher echelons.

Vafaei’s Iranian heritage has resulted in him suffering from several visa woes throughout his tenure as a professional.

But such is the world under-21 amateur champion’s pedigree that he could be a top 16 threat if he manages to sustain a decent run of form.

While he has conjured up some decent results this week in the form of victories over the likes of Kyren Wilson and Joe Perry, his next task is a step up in class again.

Williams hasn’t won a title since emerging with the World Open crown in 2018.

However, he has coasted through his four matches so far and in reaching this China Championship semi-final he has dropped only six frames.

Williams will be the heavy favourite and, interestingly, the only other time the pair crossed paths was in Vafaei’s maiden semi-final appearance in Beijing two years ago.

On that occasion, the scoreline read 6-1 in favour of the Welshman and it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to see a similarly one-sided outlook again.

Meanwhile, Selby and Murphy will renew a familiar rivalry that has seen them encounter each other on more than 20 occasions.

There’s not much to choose between them either, with Selby boasting a narrow 13-11 head-to-head advantage over his fellow Englishman.

Murphy is bidding to make it an incredible three finals on the trot in China following his exploits in Daqing and Shanghai.

The “Magician” has arguably been the player of the season so far but doesn’t have any silverware to show for it.

Against Selby, he comes up against a formidable foe who has somewhat lost his way in the last year and a half.

China has often represented a positive destination for the former world number one, though, with five out of his last seven ranking event triumphs occurring in the Asian nation.

For all four players left, there’s an extra incentive other than just the prospect of a title and a cool £150,000 winner’s cheque.

Victory on Sunday would also guarantee an invitation into November’s prestigious Champion of Champions invitational in Coventry.

Live coverage continues on Eurosport.

Click here to view the China Championship Semi-Final draw (Times: CET)

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