RICKY Walden is targeting two notable hat-tricks in Sunday’s International Championship final in China.

The world No11 brushed past Rob Milkins 9-2 in Chengdu to reach the showpiece of the £625,000 tournament in Chengdu.

Chester’s Walden, 31, can now chase a third career ranking-event success – with the first two also achieved in China.

And Walden is also out to maintain his record of never having lost a major final having lifted the trophy in Shanghai in 2008 and Wuxi two years ago.

He said: “I have never had to stand there in a ranking final and watch someone else pick up the trophy, and long may that continue.

“I have not been in that situation and hopefully never will be, even though it has happened to the best.

“But my goal is to maintain that record, and if I go there on Sunday and play like I have in the last couple of matches then I have a good chance.

“To get to three ranking finals anywhere would be great, but it has gone well for me in China.

“It is really good to be in another big final though, it has been a while and I have had semi-finals at the UK and the worlds since then.

“This event started off with 128 lads in Barnsley, so to be in the final two on the final day is special and means the world. Whoever wins out of Mark Williams and Mark Allen it will be tough.”

For an off-colour Milkins it was a desperately disappointing day on Friday – and one that means he has lost all five ranking semi-finals contested.

The world No19 from Gloucester was well in contention at just 3-2 adrift – but lost key frames at vital times and as a result seemed to lose heart.

Meanwhile Mark Williams hopes to use his long-awaited victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan to kick-start his season and help ensure a place at next year’s World Championship.

As usual only the top 16 will be guaranteed a spot at the Crucible – but this year those ranked 17-32 will have to win three qualifiers and not just one.

Two-time champion Williams missed the World Championships in April for the first time in 18 years, and does not want that to happen again.

The world No22 takes on Mark Allen in the second semi-final on Saturday.

And he said: “It hurt a lot when I lost my qualifier to get to the World Championship, obviously I had been there every year for almost as long as I could remember.

“Once it started on TV I had got over it and watched most of the matches but of course I want to be back there this season.

“It used to be if you were ranked 17-32 it was one match to get there, this year it will be three so it will be a scramble in March and April.

“Being in the top 16 when it matters next year and not having to qualify for Sheffield  is probably more important than it has ever been.

“Just by getting to the semis here I will go up to 18 I think and if I beat Mark Allen it would be 14, so that in itself is a massive incentive and extra pressure.”


Photograph by Monique Limbos