Chinese teams give fans a scare at Snooker World Cup

Updated 2017-07-08 13:43:28
World number four Ding Junhui lines up a shot during a match at the 2017 Little Swan Snooker World Cup in Wuxi, Jiangsu province on July 3.

World number four Ding Junhui lines up a shot during a match at the 2017 Little Swan Snooker World Cup in Wuxi, Jiangsu province on July 3.

The Chinese teams gave fans a day of almost unbearable tension at the 2017 Little Swan Snooker World Cup in Wuxi, Jiangsu province on Friday, as both teams flirted with disaster before pulling off last-gasp comebacks to qualify for the quarterfinals.

Both Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo's China A and defending champions Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao's China B went into the final round of group matches needing a positive result to progress to the knockout stages.

China B needed to match Brazil's result in the final games to secure second place in Group A, while China A knew that whichever team prevailed in its clash with Hong Kong, China, would qualify from Group B, with the loser facing certain elimination.

But both teams quickly made life difficult for themselves.

In the afternoon session, Zhou and Yan found themselves 2-1 down in their match against an unfancied Malaysia side after an error-strewn opening to the match.

With Brazil having secured a surprise 3-2 victory over Group A leaders Wales, the 2015 champions needed to win both the final frames of the match to keep their title defence alive.

After Zhou grinded out a win in the fourth frame to tie the match 2-2, Yan faced a one-frame shootout against Malaysian Thor Chuan Long to keep his team in the tournament.

Even the media room at the Wuxi Sports Garden Stadium fell silent as the final frame got underway, and it was clear that 17-year-old Yan was feeling the pressure.

Chinese teams give fans a scare at Snooker World Cup

By Dominic Morgan in Wuxi | | Updated: 2017-07-08 12:14

Chinese teams give fans a scare at Snooker World Cup

Yan lines up a shot during his match. The 17-year-old's China B survived a scare to qualify for the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Usually a bubbly, chatty character, Yan's face was a mask of tension as he stepped up to the table.

But the Chinese hotshot held his nerve. After a cagey exchange of safety shots, Yan finally got in among the balls and methodically racked up a break of 66.

There was still a final twist to the action though, as Yan missed a double into the middle pocket rather than play safe to give Thor a final chance.

A fantastic long pot from Thor saw Yan's pallor increase further, but the Malaysian proceeded to miss the black and concede the frame, prompting roars of triumph and relief from the Chinese fans.

"We made more errors than before," said Zhou after the match. "But the final result was to our satisfaction."

"Before the game, we had the same results as Brazil, so we had to win."

After the drama of the afternoon, many fans were probably hoping that China A's evening decider against Hong Kong, China, would produce a more comfortable victory.

If so, they were instantly disappointed, as Hong Kong, China, won the first frame to put Ding and Liang under pressure.

Led by world number five Marco Fu, Hong Kong, China, were formidable opponents, but Wuxi native Ding refused to buckle, making a break of 70 to even the match at 1-1.

After the teams traded the next two frames, Ding faced a deciding frame against Fu to keep China A in the World Cup.

When Fu got on the table and started racking up points, all appeared to be lost for China A. But he could only make a break of 51, and Ding had his chance.

The world number four kept his cool, and proceeded to clear the table and win the match.

"I feel guilty that I lost both games and put all the pressure on Ding," said Liang at the post-match press conference. "I will learn from today's lessons and perform better in the following matches."

But Ding did not seem overly concerned by his partner's performance. "I had the confidence to win the decisive frame," he said simply.

China A's reward for its victory is a tough quarterfinal tie against Group A winners Wales.

Riga Masters champion Ryan Day and two-time world champion Mark Williams have been in excellent form so far at the Word Cup, winning 19 of the 25 frames they have played so far.

That included a 4-1 humbling of China B in their fourth match, so Ding and Liang will need to be on top form to make it through to the semifinal.

China B have an intriguing match-up against Belgium, one of the surprise packages of the tournament that qualified top of Group B above the seeds China A and Hong Kong, China.

With Belgium's 22-year-old rising star Luca Brecel set to face up against teenage maestros Zhou and Yan, the match will bring together some of the hottest prospects in world snooker.

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