RICKY WALDEN’s two ranking title successes to date have each come in China and a third could follow on Sunday after he swept into the International Championship final with a 9-2 defeat of Robert Milkins.
Walden won two key frames in the first session – the fourth with a 65 clearance and the eighth after a long tactical battle – to enter the evening with a commanding 6-2 lead. He needed only 50 minutes to wrap up victory.
What’s been impressive about Walden is how much he has attacked. This is his game. He can play the safety side of it as well but has sometimes been sucked into that style of snooker when his A-game is to be positive and go for his shots. Striding round the table playing like that he looks as good as anyone.
His scoring has been superb, with seven centuries during the tournament. As importantly, Walden appears confident and determined and of course has the experience to win titles.
Walden beat a series of great players to win the 2008 Shanghai Masters and was also winner of the 2012 Wuxi Classic. He may not be among that first batch of players tipped to win a tournament at the start of the week but if he ends it as champion it’s no great surprise.
He’s been a little inconsistent at times, hence the top eight place he secured last year did not last very long, but he will obviously get a boost from the big money event whatever happens in the final.
Mark Allen and Mark Williams contest Saturday’s semi-final, with the best of 19 frames final on Sunday carrying a £125,000 first prize.
Whoever wins, it means Barry Hawkins at the 2012 Australian Goldfields Open remains the most recent debut winner of a world ranking title.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.