Mark Selby produced a relentless standard to sweep Martin Gould aside 9-3 and reach the Oppo International Championship final in Daqing.
The Jester from Leicester is now just one match away from retaining the title he won here last year, having reached a 22nd ranking final of his career. It would only be the second occasion the 12-time ranking event winner has defended a title in consecutive years, having achieved the feat for the first time at this year’s World Championship.
Gould came into today’s clash having defeated world number one Selby in their previous two ranking event meetings. However, a devastating first session from Selby effectively put paid to the Pinner Potter’s chances of reaching a fourth ranking final.
The 36-year-old Gould had started positively, by taking the first frame with a run of 53. However, that was as good as it got for the 2016 German Masters winner in the afternoon session. The world number one stamped his authority on the game and surged clear with breaks of 119, 127, 59 and 72. That helped him to establish an almost unassailable 7-1 lead going into the evening.
When they returned Selby picked up where he left off. With several of the balls situated on the cushion he got the better of a safety exchange and then compiled 97 to move one from the win. A dogged Gould showed his fighting abilities by claiming the next two frames. However, it was to be in vain as Selby got over the line a 9-3 winner. He will face either Chinese teenager Yan Bingtao or three-time ranking winner Mark Allen in the final.
Selby said: “I’m over the moon. I played very well in the first session after the opening frame. I scored well and capitalised on my opportunities. It was quite difficult coming into tonight as you know you just need to mind your own work and not do anything silly to get through. I’m just happy to get over the line and reach another final.
“To defend any tournament is very special. This one is probably one of the majors in the calendar and up there with the UK Championship. To be in the final is fantastic, but I don’t want to be stopping there. I want to defend it.
“Yan is a fantastic talent and everyone has been talking about him for a few years. He is now starting to show his potential. Mark as we all know is a fantastic player. He’s in the top 16 and always a tough player to face.”
Gould was disappointed not to have produced his best snooker today, but keen to take the positives on a strong showing this week.
“You can’t take anything away from him, that’s why he is world number one,” said world number 22 Gould. “If you told me before we came here that I would be in the semi-finals I would have bitten your hand off. It stands me in good stead. We have Shanghai coming up and the UK Championship around the corner. A couple of good tournaments to come and you never know, I could get myself into the top 16 and play in my home event at the Masters in January.”