Barry Hawkins crushed Liang Wenbo 6-1 to reach the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix final in Preston.
The Hawk is already accustomed to lifting ranking silverware at the historic Guild Hall venue. He won the Players Championship Grand Final in 2014, where he thrashed Gerard Greene 4-0. That week he won a first prize of £100,000, which matches the total he would receive for victory this week. The win guarantees Hawkins a place in the top 16 on this season’s money list and therefore a place in the Players Championship.
The 37-year-old has been one of the tour’s most consistent players in 2016/17, but has endured a series of near misses in his quest for silverware. He led Mark King 5-1 in the Northern Ireland Open final, only to lose out 9-8. He was dumped out of the UK Championship by one of the performances of the season against Fergal O’Brien, who made five centuries in a 6-5 win. The Hawk also let a 5-1 lead slip in his recent Masters semi-final with Joe Perry, which he lost 6-5.
Liang was unable to recover from yesterday evening’s late night thriller against Perry which he won 4-3. The Firecracker has struggled previously against Hawkins and that continued tonight, with Liang losing for the fourth time out of the five meetings that they have had.
The Hawk flew out of the traps, going 2-0 up in under 25 minutes. However, English Open Champion Liang responded with 68 to halve the deficit.
From that point onwards Hawkins barely allowed his opponent a sniff, displaying savage scoring power. Runs of 106, 92, 57 and 120 in consecutive frames saw him burst over the line and book his spot in Sunday’s final, where he will face either Marco Fu or Ryan Day.
“I was really pleased with that performance,” said Hawkins. “I don’t know if it is the best I’ve ever played but it’s up there. I’ve been getting close lately. Everyone knows I’ve lost a couple of sore ones, but if I play well I’ve got a chance. I’ve just got to enjoy the occasion really.
“When I first looked at my draw here I thought this was going to be a tough one,” said the two-time ranking event winner. “I’m absolutely delighted to beat someone like Judd, then Neil and Liang, who has been in great form this season.”
“I don’t know whether it is a coincidence I won my last ranking title here, but I do feel comfortable here and I really like the venue.”