There are four players left in the 2022 UK Championship draw with the semi-finals set for Saturday in York.
Not a single member from the world’s top eight in the rankings has made it to the last four at the Barbican Centre.
Two of the remaining contenders are bidding for maiden glory in a ranking tournament, but their two opponents are proven champions, making it an intriguing penultimate stage.
Let’s take a look at both ties.
Mark Allen vs Jack Lisowski (7pm)
Mark Allen reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship for the fifth time in his career with a come-from-behind victory against Sam Craigie on Friday.
The Pistol seemed to be misfiring when he trailed the tournament’s surprise package 4-2 in the second half of the match.
But Allen raised his level when it counted, reeling off breaks of 50, 108, 92, and 53 to complete the turnaround.
It continues his stellar season so far, having already defended his Northern Ireland Open crown on home turf in October.
Allen also reached the final of the British Open a few weeks before that and is ranked at number one in the single-season rankings list.
Against Jack Lisowski, he comes up against an opponent who produced a devastating display of power scoring in his 6-1 defeat of Shaun Murphy in the last eight.
Lisowski compiled four century breaks in a row to demonstrate again the type of natural talent he has at his disposal.
It’s the first time 31 year-old Lisowski has reached the semi-final stage of a Triple Crown event.
The Englishman has been working with Peter Ebdon this year in an effort to elevate his game to a more consistent level.
Coming within a frame of reaching the World Championship semi-finals in April and reaching that round here would suggest the work with the 2002 world champion is paying off.
Interestingly, Lisowski boasts a far superior head-to-head record against Allen, winning five of their six previous encounters in total.
Three of those successes have come in deciders, and the outcome of today’s clash could be just as close.
Prediction: Jack Lisowski 6-4 Mark Allen
Tom Ford vs Ding Junhui (1pm)
Earlier on Saturday, Ding Junhui faces Tom Ford in the opening fixture from the UK Championship semi-finals.
Ding produced a remarkable performance to bagel world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, a formidable player he has so often struggled against in the past.
The Chinese superstar has suffered in the doldrums for three years since securing the most recent of his three UK titles in 2019.
But there have been several signs lately that the 35 year-old is on his way back to the glory days.
Crucially, Ding’s level of scoring has drastically improved in the last few months and his centuries rate is more akin to the kind he produced in his younger days on the circuit.
He may officially be the lowest-ranked player left in the UK Championship draw, but he’s by far the most experienced in terms of success at this level.
By contrast, Ford is probably the least experienced as the 39 year-old attempts to reach a title-deciding affair for only the second time in his career.
Ford beat Joe Perry 6-4 on Friday to match his best run in York, having also reached the semi-finals back in 2018.
The Englishman has always been regarded as a talented player, but one who doesn’t possess the consistency required to feature prominently in the higher echelons.
He may not have too many more opportunities to challenge for a major crown so will surely be motivated to give it his all this weekend.
Ding and Ford have played each other eight times in all competitions, with the former enjoying a 6-2 advantage from their past ties.
An added incentive for both players is that the £250,000 champion’s cheque this week would be enough to boost their ranking into the top 16 in time for the Masters.
Prediction: Ding Junhui 6-3 Tom Ford
Draw and Schedule
Saturday, November 19th
Tom Ford vs Ding Junhui
Mark Allen (9) Jack Lisowski (12)
The final is on Sunday, November 20th.
Where to Watch the UK Championship
The full 2022 UK Championship schedule will be available to watch on Eurosport and discovery+ across Europe, with viewers in the UK and Ireland also able to enjoy coverage from the BBC.
Other options are available around the world, with more information on those global networks available over on the World Snooker Tour website.
Featured photo credit: WST