Prospect of all-Chinese world snooker championship final as Hong Kong’s Marco Fu joins mainlander Ding Junhui in semis

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 April, 2016, 9:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 April, 2016, 6:22pm

Dreams of a first Chinese world snooker champion moved closer to reality as Hong Kong’s Marco Fu Ka-chun joined China’s Ding Junhui in the semi-finals of this year’s world championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

The pair have been kept apart in the last four, raising the prospect of an all-Asian final to decide the winner of snooker’s most prestigious prize.

Fu withstood a fightback by Barry Hawkins to win 13-1l, a day after Ding became the first man into this year’s semi-finals with a 13-3 thrashing of former champion Mark Williams.

Now Fu will face England’s world number one Mark Selby in the last four, with Ding up against experienced Scottish cueman Alan McManus.

I almost threw it away, but luckily I made a good break at the end
Marco Fu

Since the modern world championship came into being in 1969, only two players from outside Britain and Ireland – Canada’s Cliff Thorburn (1980) and Australia’s Neil Robertson (2010) – have lifted the trophy.

An estimated audience of 100 million in China alone watched Ding beat Fu to win the 2011 Masters title, proof both of the Chinese players’ popularity at home and the growing appeal of snooker across the region.

Fu, though, had to fight hard to reach the semi-finals after Hawkins, who knocked out five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the previous round, launched a remarkable recovery from the seemingly hopeless position of 9-1 behind.

The 38-year-old Fu started well enough when, resuming 7-1 up, he won the first two frames of the session, only for Hawkins to rally in style.

But Fu, last a world semi-finalist in 2006, eventually held his nerve with a superb break of 74 – in response to 60 from Hawkins – in the 24th frame that saw him into the last four.

“That has to be the best clearance of my life,” said Fu. “I was under a lot of pressure at the end and I couldn’t really pot the last ball.

“Some of the shots I played were were horrendous – and I was choosing all the wrong shots. Under pressure, you can think a bit silly.

“I almost threw it away, but luckily I made a good break at the end.”

Meanwhile, McManus, 45, reached his first world semi-final in 23 years after winning the last four frames of his all-Scottish clash with John Higgins as he, too, won 13-11.

“I can and I can’t believe this is happening,” McManus said. “You guys [the media] keep calling me a veteran and I’m thinking ‘give me a break’.

“At 45, I guess I’m getting on a little bit.

“I’ve never thought these sort of days were completely gone because I can play and I’m still pretty dedicated to the sport.”

Victory was a triumph for McManus’ grit.