NEIL ROBERTSON and Ding Junhui will go head-to-head on Sunday in the China Open final in Beijing.
The games two leading non-British stars made comfortable progress in their respective semi-finals on Saturday, Robertson beating Ali Carter 6-2 and Ding defeating Mike Dunn 6-0.
Only one of the previous nine ranking finals this season has failed to feature either Robertson or Ding – last week’s Players Championship between Barry Hawkins and Gerard Greene. Ding has won four titles from five finals while Robertson has been successful in two from three.
The Australian raced 4-0 ahead of Carter, who had a chance to win the third frame but missed the final pink. He did close to 4-2 but Robertson, who has been suffering from a virus all week, won the next two frames to secure victory.
“My performances have improved as the week has gone on and today was the best I’ve played. It has been a new experience for me to be sick during a tournament but I have kept fighting. It’s an amazing achievement,” he said.
Ding did not have to play his very best to repel the challenge of Dunn, who was appearing in the first ranking tournament semi-final of his 23-year professional career.
“I’ve kept my momentum going through the week and played very carefully during every match,” Ding said.
Ding has won ten ranking titles to Robertson’s nine, although China’s no.1 is yet to land the world title.
In previous meetings the duo are locked together at 5-5, with Ding beating Robertson in the quarter-finals of this season’s Shanghai Masters and Indian Open.
Ding will equal Stephen Hendry’s record of five ranking titles in a season – set during the
1990/91 campaign – if he lands the £85,000 first prize.
Robertson is looking to defend the title he won 12 months ago with a 10-6 defeat of Mark Selby.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.