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Captain Takes Flight To Escape Zhou

Ali Carter won six consecutive frames in the final session of his match with Zhou Yuelong at the Betfred World Championship to win 13-9 and reach the quarter-finals for the sixth time.

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Chelmsford’s 39-year-old Carter has a reputation for raising his game at the Crucible, having reached the final in 2008 and 2012, and once again he found his rhythm when he needed it most. He trailed China’s Zhou by margins of 5-1 and 9-7, but dominated the final session to win comfortably.

Carter goes through to the quarter-finals to face Gary Wilson on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both players have now won five matches in the event having come through the qualifying rounds.

World number 19 Carter has been unlucky to run into an in-form Ronnie O’Sullivan in both of his previous visits to the final, but with O’Sullivan out of contention this time, he could be forgiven for dreaming of the ultimate prize. Having battled cancer twice as well as Crohn’s disease, he has come through tougher tests in his life.

World number 35 Zhou was the youngest player in the field at 21 and had reached the second round in Sheffield for the first time, but fell away today in the concluding stages. Still, the £30,000 pay day is the biggest of his career.

A scrappy opening frame today went Carter’s way, and he rattled through the next three frames with breaks of 72, 72 and 55 to go 11-9 ahead. Frame 21 came down to the last red, Carter potting it and clearing up to extend his lead.

The 22nd also came down to the last red, and this time Carter missed a tough long pot to gift his opponent a chance to clear. Zhou got to the final black but over-cut a tricky pot to a top corner, leaving Carter to slot in the black for victory.

“It feels like I’ve swum the Channel to get through that match,” said four-time ranking event winner Carter, whose best run so far this season took him to the final of the World Grand Prix in February. “It was only in the end where Zhou’s lack of experience showed and that’s about the only thing I had over him in the end.

“He just kept coming back at me in the second session. I climbed a mountain to go 7-6 in front and then slid all the way back down again to go 9-7.

“I gave Peter Ebdon a call before I went out today. I said it’s about time I did something special and I need a special performance to get through. He just told me to go out and do what I know how to do. I produced it to 12-9. It was a bit sticky to get over the line but I’m delighted to get through.

“I just stuck to my principles in the last six frames, doing the simple things well. It’s the hardest thing to do when you’re bang under pressure, and I can’t tell you how much pressure there is out there.

“Gary Wilson is a very  good player, he did a job on Selby. He’s going to want to get to the one table set up just as much as I do.

“I feel like I deserve to be world champion. I haven’t won it, I’ve lost in the final twice to Ronnie. It’s my chance to put things right. This tournament is the one that means everything to me. I’ve been here for 17 years and with everything I’ve been through, to get to another quarter-final is not a bad record in itself.”

Zhou said: “Ali played better than me today. Coming into the last session I was a little bit nervous. I still had a chance in the last two frames but I’d lost some concentration. I didn’t sleep well last night so I was feeling the pressure.

“In the last two weeks, since the qualifiers started, I haven’t been eating well. Every day I have just a little bit to eat, because of the pressure. Now the game has finished I can relax now, and it has made me want to win more.”