So on this last day in Riga, 8 players remained to fight it out for a chance to reign in Latvia. Play began and the results made it clearer of who get to the semi-final stage. Interestingly no top seeds remained in this stage and so the great Kurt Maflin was pitched against the Chinese player, Luo Honghao. Perhaps the pressure of progressing so far in the tournament got to Luo because he failed to make an impression in this match and his Norwegian opponent built on his great form so far and blew the young player towards the exit door, winning the match comfortably, 4-1.
Similarly Mark Joyce again kicked into gear, pushing Selby’s slayer, Stuart Carrington into the airport terminal for an early flight. The weight has definitely been lifted on these players as they can now show their worth, skills that that are largely overshadowed when the likes of the snooker elite play well. Joyce proved this by notching up a 4-1 win with a 68 break in the last frame.
4-1 seemed to be the flavour of the day as the same result was created in the match between Matthew Selt and Mark King. King looked good up this stage of the tournament and was one players who I believed that could go the distance but in the end a best of seven match can swing either way and today the pendulum swung towards Selt’s corner. Mark King can however leave Riga with his head held high and build on this great form for his next tournament.
The two remaining Chinese players in this competition had to dig deep to achieve the last semi-final placing and this match didn’t disappoint as Yan Bingtao took on Li Hang. Hang is known for his snappy dressing especially his choice of shoes. Today, his shoes were put into overdrive and he may need to visit the cobbler’s afterwards after his marathon walk around the table. Both players made a vain effort and took the match to the wire, 3-3. However the final push fell to Yan Bingtao, making him a worthy winner, including a classic two red ball plant on the way.
In the semi-finals, Mark Joyce played Kurt Maflin and Yan Bingtao against Matt Selt. Joyce battled in his match to take it to a deciding frame with Kurt not willing to roll over easily. However Mark Joyce’s tide was stronger on the day and clinched the match 5-4 with a break of 126. Kurt Maflin should be proud though of his efforts and has proved this weekend that he is s force to be reckoned with in snooker. In the other semi-final, the match adopted a similar style with both players wanting a win and so the match went to the wire. The snooker battle between Matt Selt and Yan Bingtao was ferocious with Selt winning two frames in a row. However Bingtao was the strongest of the two on the day and won the match, 5-3.
So we were faced with a mouthwatering final with both Yan Bingtao and Mark Joyce both facing their maiden final. The match began with a nervy start by both players with schoolboy errors on both sides of the divide. After a protracted safety battle, Joyce looked like clearing up but missed the frame sealing green. Yan then snookered him behind the black and Joyce gifted his opponent the frame by hitting the blue. Bingtao then cleared up and left Mark Joyce as sick as a parrot. 1-0 Yan Bingtao. Yan got in first in the second frame but only managed a break of 18. However Joyce, hurting from the first frame was unable to pot a ball and let Yan in again and Bingtao capitalised and took the frame to lead 2-0.
The third frame started with a missed red by Yan and finally Joyce got his chance with a red to the left middle pocket. However Joyce broke down on 30. Mark got in again after Yan missed a long red with a screw in extension and took the frame with a 103 break, his third century of the day. A snooker on the blue caused Joyce grief and this filtered out into the frame with Bingtao making it 3-1.
A missed black by Joyce in the next frame left Bingtao with an easy starter but he failed to make anything out of the opportunity. Mark was let in again when Yan failed to pot a red. Joyce killed the frame off and made it 3-2. A full ball kiss in the next, left Yan with an early chance but yet again Bingtao ran out of petrol on 65. Joyce started motoring but a foul on a red when he attempted the black and Yan led 4-2 with one frame away from winning the title.
A superb opening red by Bingtao in the next frame gave him a chance at winning the match but as we know pressure always sets in when you get nearer to the winning line. Pouncing on Yan’s missed red, Joyce starting developing the balls but broke down on 45 and Yan Bingtao took the frame and match on clinical style. Shouts from Bingtao made him one of the few teenagers to win a title and only the third Chinese player to win a ranking event. A deserved 5-2 victory.and a cheque for £50,000. Next stop for the International Championship in China on 04/08/19.
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