DING JUNHUI will have the chance to win yet more silverware in a sensational season on Sunday in Berlin after scraping past Ryan Day to reach the German Masters final.
The world No3 has already won a hat-trick of ranking titles back to back this term, with success in Shanghai, Delhi and Chengdu.
And the 26-year-old Ding can do what no player has done since Stephen Hendry during the 1990-91 season by winning a fourth ranking title in the same campaign.
Hendry actually won five ranking titles that season – the Grand Prix, Asian Open, Dubai Classic, UK Championship and British Open crowns.
But China’s No1 was pushed all the way by Day, who fought back from 5-3 down with brave breaks of 109 and 58 before suffering a cruel kick taking a red on into the middle pocket in the decider and losing 6-5 as Ding stepped in with a match-winning run of 79.
It was agony for the 33-year-old world No21 Day, who was in his first ranking semi-final for almost five years and who has never won a ranking title despite appearing in three finals, the last of those back in 2008.
But the Welshman could be proud of his efforts at the Tempodrom, where he looked more like the player that once rose as high as No6 in the world rankings before a slump in form.
And Ding was targeting some more history as well as trying to claim the £70,000 first prize from a final that will be contested over two sessions and the best of 17 frames.
Ding said: “It would be great to win a fourth ranking title and would make me very proud to equal one of Stephen’s records – but the final will be very tough.
“It is not easy to get to finals now, there so many top players you have to get past.
“I thought I was going to lose when Ryan was in but he got a bit out of position, and then had bad luck with the kick.”
Day said: “It is so disappointing to lose like that. If he plays a brilliant shot or something, fair enough, but to be denied by a kick like that is hard to take.
“I played the red into the middle as a shot to nothing, but because the cue ball just stopped it left him his chance, but I played okay here and it is nice to contend again.”
The weekend is always special in Berlin, with a sell-out 2,500 crowd traditionally giving the players who have made it through to the one-table set-up a fantastic ovation – and Saturday proved no exception.
After a strong start, with Day responding with a 64 to Ding’s opening-frame 97, the contest became scrappy – but the quality improved again for a thrilling finale.
Photographs by Monique Limbos