Xiao To Face Ding In Historic All-Chinese Final

For the first time, tomorrow will see an all-Chinese ranking event final between Ding Junhui and Xiao Guodong, after the pair came through their respective semi-finals against Barry Hawkins and Michael Holt earlier today.

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Chinese number one Ding Junhui made it through to his ninth career ranking event final today with a 6-2 win against this season’s World Championship runner-up Barry Hawkins.

It was of course Hawkins who defeated Ding at the Crucible this year on his way to the final, but having fallen 2-0 behind early on, he struggled to get back into the match and despite not scoring heavily throughout the course of the match, Ding would eventually run out a 6-2 winner.

Much has been made of Ding’s form in China, particularly away from Beijing and this run marks his first ranking event final in his homeland since the China Open back in 2010. With wins against elite players such as Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy already under his belt this week, Ding has looked like the man to beat for a few days and perhaps the biggest question now will be as to whether he will feel the pressure of competing in another final at home.

Perhaps though, the pressure upon him will be eased, given the fact that in the final he will play his compatriot Xiao Guodong, who defeated Michael Holt 6-3 to reach his first career ranking event final.

Long term readers of the blog will know that Xiao is a young player who I have been following the progress of for a number of years, particularly since his amazing match with Kurt Maflin (who incidentally has been interviewed by Snooker Island today here), at the World Championship qualifiers a couple of years ago.

Coached by Terry Griffiths, initially through their 110sport connection and now at the South West Snooker Academy, Xiao has always been a heavy scorer, but this week he has combined that with the other aspects of the game required in order to win and will now break into the top 32 of the rankings for the first time in his career.

Can he challenge Ding in the final? I don’t see why not, although Ding will head into tomorrow as a deserved favourite and it will take something special from Xiao in order to beat him. Xiao has though already got a win to his name against Ding at the venue stage of a ranking event back in the 2009 China Open, when as fate would have it, he had defeated today’s opponent Holt in the previous round.

Whatever the outcome, it is another landmark in terms of the growth of the game in China (see my recent post here), and can only be positive for the global development of the sport going forward.