Ding Junhui beat Mark Williams with a session to spare, by a 13-3 scoreline, to reach the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship.
Ding’s emphatic victory made him the first man into the last four at the Crucible and gave him a day off on Wednesday while the other six remaining players sweat it out with the hope of joining him in the one-table conclusion. It was a performance and a result which suggest that 29-year-old Ding has the form and the confidence to become the first Asian winner of snooker’s most famous trophy.
Ding is into the semis in Sheffield for only the second time in his career, and first since 2011 when he lost 17-15 to Judd Trump. He has won 11 ranking events – only five players in snooker history have won more – yet has rarely produced his best at the Crucible, perhaps weighed down by the expectation of tens of millions of fans in China. Having dropped out of the top 16 and breezed through the qualifying rounds, Ding appears to be playing with more freedom and this is surely his best chance yet to capture the title.
His next test will be against either John Higgins or Alan McManus over 33 frames on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Welshman Williams saw his hopes of winning a third world title end and revealed afterwards that he was forced to change his cue tip the night before the match, which hampered his chances.
Ding led 6-2 after the first session and rattled through the first four frames tonight with breaks of 109, 52, 95 and 73. Williams had scored just six points in those four frames but he did manage to take the one after the interval to make the score 10-3.
At that stage Ding needed to win the last three frames to avoid having to return tomorrow, and he did just that. A break of 68 gave him frame 14, then he took the next on the colours, and clinched the result in the 16th with a run of 76.
“I got some easy chances in that match,” said Ding. “After 2-2 things just changed. I think I controlled the match, I took my chances to make breaks. I have confidence and every time I see a chance I think I can go for it and make breaks.
“Mark didn’t play the way he normally does, everyone finds it hard to play with a new tip. The day off is a bonus, I’ve never had that before, and I’m going to enjoy the day.
“I feel more relaxed now, in this match I released a lot of pressure, I went for crazy shots.”
Williams said: “I got beat easily and to be honest deep down I knew I was going to get beat easily, so I can’t grumble.
“With the players left in, it was probably my best chance to win the World Championship again and I felt really confident. But as soon as my tip split last night, I knew that my chances were gone.
“There’s no way I could do anything with a new tip, it’s hard enough in the club, but when you’re out there in the arena it’s almost impossible.
“Deep down I knew I was going to get thrashed. Ding played well, but in the first session if I’d had my normal tip on I feel I would have been in front. I’m obviously disappointed because it was a great chance to win.
“Ding will have to play much better than that to beat John Higgins, if he plays him next.
“I won’t get another chance like this to win it. With a lot of the top players out, it was open for anyone to win it, I did think I had as good a chance as anyone.”
Meanwhile, Mark Selby edged towards a semi-final spot by taking a 10-6 lead over Kyren Wilson. World number one Selby, the 2014 champion, needs three more frames in the concluding session on Wednesday morning.
Wilson trailed 6-0 in the early stages this morning but recovered to win the last two frames of the first session, then took three of the first four frames tonight with a top break of 67 to close to 7-5.
Selby made a run of 60 in winning frame 13 before Wilson took the next with an 87. Leicester’s Selby took the 15th to lead 9-6 and started the next with a run of 54. Wilson then had a chance to snatch it but was unlucky not to finish on a high value colour after potting the last red, trailing by 31 points. He battled gamely for a snooker but Selby eventually potted the brown to secure a four-frame overnight lead.