JOE PERRY kept alive hopes of a first full ranking title in his 23rd year as a professional with a surprise win over Mark Selby at the BetVictor Welsh Open on Friday night.
The 39-year-old from Wisbech claimed a notable 5-1 victory to reach his second ranking-event semi-final of the season, after losing to Marco Fu in Chengdu.
World No15 Perry was runner-up in the European Open in 2001, but despite being one of the most respected and tactically astute players on tour has big spaces in his trophy cabinet.
Perry won his first title as a professional early in the campaign, the Asian Tour Yixing Open, and insisted afterwards that though it was already his best season it was not over yet.
After setting up a semi-final against Ding Junhui with his win over the world No2, Perry said: “I am absolutely delighted with that win.
“I have beaten Mark Selby tonight, a proven winner who has won the biggest tournaments, and even though I have beaten him before he is always a scalp.
“I played well despite a shaky start, the main TV table was so much faster than the others, but once I settled I hit the ball well and was positive.
“It has been my best ever season, I think. This is my second semi-final in the main ranking events, I have had a few quarter-finals, and won in Yixing.
“I don’t know why that is, but I am a lot more casual and relaxed about it all these days, you all see me around the venue, I have a great bunch of lads, fellow pros, I hang around with and I am just really enjoying it.
“There are still massive prizes to play for as well, including the big one at the end of the season.
“Ding, Ronnie and people like that have good winning records against anyone so you can’t worry too much about the head to heads even though his is strong against me.
“You just need to find your best form. I have beaten him this season in Wuxi, played one of my best matches and beat him 5-1 – but he got me back in Germany.
“He has the wind in his sails this season, and I will probably have to play better than tonight.”
In the other evening quarter-final Barry Hawkins ensured there would be a repeat of last year’s World Championship final with a 5-0 whitewash of Marco Fu.
World No5 Hawkins, who must again take on the might of Ronnie O’Sullivan on Saturday evening, said: “I am over the moon with that result.
“Marco played very well in beating Mark Williams so I knew I would have to play well. I started strongly and had a bit of luck, but I felt in good form.
“I am really looking forward to playing Ronnie again, it is always a special occasion, I just can’t miss a ball!
“It was a great final and a great standard at the Crucible, I just need to cut out a few mistakes that I made against him in that one. If I can do that I might have a chance.
“I think I forced him to play well in that final, he had six centuries and a pot percentage of 94 per cent over the best of 35 frames, which was terrific.
“I learned watching him as well over that length of match, the positional shots he plays and the way he shrugs it off if he plays a bad shot.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos