Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham overcame an attack of nerves as he moved a step closer to a first ranking title, beating Jamie Jones 5-3 to reach the semi-finals of the Cazoo British Open.
Saengkham appeared in two ranking semi-finals in 2018, at the Yushan World Open and Welsh Open, and now has the chance to reach his first final. He will face Mark Allen at 1pm on Saturday in Milton Keynes, a match televised live on the main ITV channel. World number 38 Saengkham finished last season strongly, reaching the last 16 of the World Championship, and has carried that momentum into the new campaign.
Defeat has a silver lining for Jones as his schedule is now clear for him to run the London Marathon on Sunday, raising money for WST’s official charity Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home.
Breaks of 61 and 89 gave Saengkham a 2-0 lead tonight, then Jones fought back to 2-2. A run of 102 saw Saengkham regain the advantage, but he made more errors as the winning line drew close and Jones recovered to 3-3.
In frame seven, an excellent pot on a red to a centre pocket set up Saengkham for a run of 63 to go 4-3 up. Both players missed clear opportunities in the eighth, but when Jones made a safety mistake with three reds left it proved his last shot as his opponent scored the points he needed.
“At 4-3 I thought my heart was going to jump out of body,” said former World Under-21 Champion Saengkham. “I told myself to calm down. I was nervous, I couldn’t control my hands. I missed easy balls, so I tried to relax and I just hoped I would get more chances. There was lots of pressure. I think I will enjoy tomorrow’s match more because I will be facing a top 16 player.”
In the other quarter-final, Ryan Day made a fantastic total clearance in the deciding frame to beat Yuan Sijun 5-4. The Welshman will now meet Robbie Williams on Saturday at 7pm.
World number 27 Day has won three ranking titles – the 2017 Riga Masters, 2018 Gibraltar Open and 2021 Shoot Out – and this is his first semi-final since that Shoot Out triumph 20 months ago.
Day and Yuan shared the first four frames – the Chinese player making the bigger breaks with 74 and 68. Yuan then took a scrappy fifth frame and had a chance to go 4-2 ahead but missed the final pink to a top corner when he trailed 61-51. Day potted the pink for 3-3 and made a 50 in the next to edge ahead.
Yuan dominated frame eight to make it 4-4, but didn’t have a chance in the decider as 42-year-old Day made a 124.
Day said: “It wasn’t the best game but I stuck in there. To win it with a big break gives me a big confidence boost. I tried to play fast and not get bogged down. There were nerves tonight on both tables, you could sense that. Tomorrow night is a big opportunity for both me and Robbie.”
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