China’s Zhang Anda claimed a momentous first ranking event title after defeating Englishman Tom Ford 10-6 in the final of the International Championship in Tianjin.
Zhang becomes the sixth player from mainland China to lift ranking silverware. He’s only the second player from China to win a ranking title on home soil, following in the footsteps of the legendary Ding Junhui who sparked huge interest in the sport with his win in the 2005 China Open.
The 31-year-old’s ascent has been a gradual one, having first turned professional back in 2009. He made his first ranking final earlier this season and had looked as if he would land a maiden win at the English Open. After leading Judd Trump 7-3 in the title match, Zhang fell foul of a six frame burst and lost 9-7.
Zhang has defeated an all-star cast to clinch the title this week, beating the likes of Ding, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan. He now earns a place in next week’s Champion of Champions, where he will take on O’Sullivan.
He will also move into the world’s top 16 for the first time and automatically qualify for the upcoming MrQ UK Championship, dislodging his compatriot Ding. Zhang is now the highest ranked Chinese player, sitting in 15th position in the world rankings after scooping the £175,000 top prize.
Ford misses out on what would have been a maiden ranking title for himself. The Leicester cueman has now been beaten in all three of his ranking final appearances. Ford made it to the title match at the German Masters earlier this year, but was runner-up to Ali Carter after a heavy 10-3 loss. He earns £75,000 for his exertions this week.
An enthralling afternoon session saw Zhang emerge with a slender 5-4 advantage. He thrilled the packed Tianjin crowd by making a 147 break in the third frame, the second maximum of his career.
The first frame of the evening saw Ford immediately restore parity, crafting a fine break of 91 to make it 5-5. From there, Zhang mounted a charge towards the finish line. Breaks of 71, 65 and 108 made it 8-5, before he crucially edged a 30-minute 14th to make it four on the bounce and move one from victory at 9-5.
Ford fought hard to remain in contention and a valiant break of 55 saw him remain in contention at 9-6. He had a chance to reduce his arrears further in the 16th, but crucially spurned a black off the spot on a break of 51. Zhang saw his opportunity and pounced, firing in a match winning 71 to seal ranking event glory for the first time in his career.
“I’m feeling extremely excited. During the pandemic, I had considered retiring and giving up. But later on, I couldn’t bear it and chose to return to the arena. I have been doing quite well in the past two or three years,” admitted an elated Zhang.
“The English Open had a significant impact on my improvement. When facing a disadvantage, I tell myself not to slack off. The English Open final taught me a valuable lesson and provided a great experience. This time, I maintained my focus because the opponent could have come back at any moment.
“If you watch the maximum break back I had a fairly tough red where I stopped for a while. I made up my mind to play position for the black and it led to the 147. It was pretty straightforward after that point and I’m glad I went for it.
“Right now, I want to see my son immediately. After reaching the semi-finals, I had discussed with my family about bringing my son to Tianjin. I miss him a lot and because this tournament is in Tianjin and I didn’t have time to go back to Guangdong. However, after checking the transportation, I realised that the journey is still quite far for a young child, so I haven’t seen him yet.”
Ford said: “I am gutted I got beat. Zhang was the better player so hats off to him. He deserved to win. It has been an amazing week. A nice arena and a big crowd. It is always good to come to China. I can’t look at any positives at the moment as I got beat. I’ll look at it in the next few days and hopefully I’ll be a bit more positive.”