To reach a first ranking final on Friday Rob Milkins will have to conquer nerves, history, and an opponent he has never previously beaten in Ricky Walden.
Four times prior to this International Championship Milkins has got to the last four, the first occasion back in 2005 and the most recent before Chengdu in Australia last year.
The player known as ‘The Milkman’, currently ranked No19 in the world, has not as yet delivered with the showpiece in sight, but will have another chance over the best of 17 frames against two-time China ranking event winner Walden to put that right.
The pair produced a Crucible classic in 2013, Walden prevailing 13-11, and if Milkins, who possesses an attacking and aggressive game played at a brisk pace that is usually pleasing on the eye, can keep his cool then another terrific match could be the result.
That world championship last-16 clash came on Milkins’ return to the biggest stage after a surprising eight-year absence given his undoubted ability. But he spoke movingly that year about his battles with drink and betting, and his debt to close friends, family and manager Paul Mount for dragging him “out of the gutter”.
The 38-year-old Milkins, who made a superb break in the decider of his quarter-final to see off Marco Fu 6-5, said: “I have been here a few times before, obviously.
“And I just want to play well in the match, forget what it is and concentrate on my game. I have not done myself justice in the other semi-finals.
“Certainly last year against Neil and Marco back to back in Australia and Wuxi, I didn’t play well – but I hope I am due soon.
“I was twitchy all through the game against Marco – but I had a good game against Ricky in Sheffield when I played well and just left it a bit late, I was too far behind.
“I was gutted to lose that one, it was a massive game and this is a chance to get one back.”
Walden has of course been further than this in winning in Shanghai and Wuxi, and he had a much easier ride against Jamie Burnett running out a 6-1 victor.
The world No11 from Chester said: “Rob has had a good couple of seasons and is a very quick player, our Crucible match was last year was of a high standard when I scraped through. He plays positively and scores heavily.
“I punished Jamie for a few unforced errors, and am really pleased to be into the semi-finals. I do feel I improve as a tournament goes on, I feel in good form after struggling at the start of the week.
“It has been a long road trip of about three weeks, as well as this there has been the Asian Tour event and I was in Hong Kong before that were I was always going to go.
“But I am very pleased I was there for the General Cup as it was brilliant seeing Ali Carter back and playing so well after being put through the mill as we all know.
“He has had terrific support from other players and looks to be back and strong.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos