Ding on course for treble
Ding Junhui earned himself a shot at becoming the first snooker player this century to win three successive ranking titles after fending off Graeme Dott in the semi-finals of the lucrative International Championship.
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And when Chinese superstar Ding tackles Hong Kong's Marco Fu in Sunday's final in Chengdu, it will be a third successive all-Asian final, a clear indication that the sport's traditional British powerbase has met its match with a new generation of cuemen.
Ding is Asia's standard-bearer, and following his wins at the Shanghai Masters and Indian Open the 26-year-old will start as a firm favourite against Fu, 35, who defeated Joe Perry in Friday's first semi-final.
Should Ding win, it would take his prize-money to £257,000 over a six-week spell.
He was pushed hard by Dott before sealing a 9-7 victory with a terrific closing break of 63, just as Dott appeared on the brink of forcing a deciding frame. At 62-6 ahead, Dott was in control, but Ding rattled in a terrific long red, and despite the balls being awkwardly situated he manufactured a match-winning clearance.
"He didn't play the perfect safety so left me a long pot," Ding said. "And it was lucky for me to get that chance when I was more than 50 points behind.
"I knew it was my last chance so I held myself together to win the match with a solid break.
"I hope to have a great final with Fu tomorrow. I beat him in the Masters final in 2011 so he must be desperate for revenge."
Stephen Hendry, all the way back in 1993, was the last player to triumph at three successive ranking tournaments.
Hendry's fellow Scot, Dott, felt he could have denied Ding the chance of a hat-trick, so the 36-year-old was frustrated to have to witness his opponent's masterful clearance.
"Ding is probably the best player in the world now, his all-round game is good, so are his safety and break-building," Dott said on worldsnooker.com.
"That's why I'm disappointed, because to play him in this form and get to 8-8 would have been a good achievement for me."
Asia's remarkable autumn continues though, with Ding having beaten fellow Chinese cueman Xiao Guodong to land the Shanghai Masters in September, and then overcome Aditya Mehta to triumph at October's Indian Open.
On offer to the champion on Sunday is a cheque for £125,000, the biggest prize on offer at any snooker tournament outside the United Kingdom.