Judd Trump set up a showpiece final with Neil Robertson at the Betway UK Championship with a commanding 6-2 defeat of Lu Ning.
World number 40 Lu had enjoyed an excellent run to the semi-finals, but he was no match for Trump as the world number one remained on course for winning his second UK title and first since 2011.
Trump will battle Robertson over a possible 19 frames in Milton Keynes on Sunday, with the winner to take the trophy and £200,000 top prize. It will be their 22nd career meeting, Trump winning 12 of the previous 21. Their last three matches have been finals; Robertson coming out on top at the 2019 Champion of Champions, then Trump taking the honours at this year’s German Masters and English Open.
Bristol’s 31-year-old Trump is through to his 30th ranking event final and looking for his 20th title. He already has two trophies to his name this season, from the English Open and Northern Ireland Open, so victory tomorrow would see him half way towards matching last season’s record haul of six ranking titles.
Tonight’s result means that the field is set for the Masters and the draw will take place during the interval of the afternoon session on Sunday. Lu could have jumped into the elite by winning the tournament but instead Thepchaiya Un-Nooh can breathe a sigh of relief as he keeps the 16th and last spot.
Lu, playing in the semi-finals of a ranking event for the second time in his career, could have won the opening frame tonight but missed the pink to a centre pocket on 51, letting Trump in to clear with 66. China’s 26-year-old Lu was not overawed by the occasion and dominated the second frame for 1-1.
A run of 107 saw Trump regain the lead, then in frame four he was on target for a 147 until he left the 13th black just short of a top corner pocket on 99.
Frame five came down to a safety battle on the colours and Lu converted superb pots on the blue and pink to keep himself in the match at 3-2. Trump won frame six with a run of 54 and took control of the next with a 55. Lu had a chance to counter but made just 7 before missing a tricky red to a top corner. That effectively ended his resistance as Trump mopped up the frame and cruised over the winning line in frame eight with a 113.
“Lu should have won the first frame tonight, after winning it I felt in control,” said Trump. “I made mistakes tonight and I’ll need to cut those out in the final.
“Every time I play Neil it is special. The Champion of Champions and English Open finals are two of the best ever. The table is playing beautifully and I’m sure there will be a lot of high scoring. Neil’s all round game looks very good so I’ll have to be at my best. The way we are both playing spurs the other players on so they don’t fall behind.”
Trump has won 15 consecutive matches over the past 26 days and admits fatigue is playing a part. “The past few games have been draining,” he said. “It is taking its toll. There is one last hurdle. It’s no good getting to a final and then losing, especially as I have waited for six years to get to the final of this event. To win it would top off an amazing few weeks. Since the start of the tournament the trophy has been by the table and that has made me feel to win it is what I’m here for.”