The final of the International Championship takes place out in China on Sunday when the biggest ranking title of the year so far is on the line and the potential huge rewards that go with it when Tom Ford meets Zhang Anda.
Ford goes into this final looking for a first ranking title after a near miss at the German Masters towards the beginning of the year while Zhang will also be looking to back-up a loss in the final of the English Open earlier in the year.
Tom Ford is yet to win a ranking event title but he has been in a final and he might feel a little more comfortable over the course of this game as a result of that. He has already made his way into the top 16 courtesy of his run this week, which is very much a boost for him given that the UK Championship is fast approaching and the cut off for The Masters isn’t too far away. A win here would solidify that spot for the remainder of the season and get him into the Champion of Champions next week.
Ford has taken care of a couple of class acts already this week when overcoming the likes of Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins in the earlier stages of the tournament. The win which might give him the most satisfaction though is the semi-final victory over Jordan Brown where he had to come from 3-0 down to win 9-6 and the longer that match went on the better he got and the heavier he scored. That certainly bodes well for him in this final.
We have seen Zhang Anda in excellent form this season. That has largely come out of nowhere because he had been residing down the lower reaches of the rankings for much of his career but this term he has already made the final of the English Open where he lost to Judd Trump and now he has made it through to a first major final on home soil this week. A win here would give him his first title and would ensure he heads to Bolton next week for the Champion of Champions.
Zhang certainly deserves his spot in this final. He has taken care of the likes of Mark Williams, Ding Junhui and then Ronnie O’Sullivan in a semi-final which twisted and turned many ways. The positive of that win in the last four on Saturday was the longer the match went he was able to keep his composure, even when he had surrendered a 4-2 lead to trail 6-4, and that is something he will look to fall back on should things get tough in this final.
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We don’t really have much in the way of history to go by in this final because this is the first time these two will have met in their careers even though they have both been around the scene for a while. Ford has been ranked higher than Zhang for much of their career and that might be why this will be a first ever meeting between two men who have played well this week.
There is no doubt that Tom Ford was in excellent form in his semi-final but that was two days ago and there is no guarantee that he will be in the same vein here. The concern that I have over Ford is that in his final earlier in the year he wasn’t really competitive and lost 10-3 to Ali Carter and I wonder if he gets behind in this match if he’ll turn in on himself again and if he does that then I think that plays into the hands of Zhang Anda.
We’ve seen this week that the Chinese player can win matches with a barrage of scoring and he can win scrappier contests as well. He took Mark Williams to the cleaners with his scoring and then got the better of Ding and O’Sullivan with his tactical side of his game and that has to bode well, as does the fact that he was much more competitive in his final against Judd Trump at the English Open. He is also at home here and I would imagine he’ll get plenty of support here and I think the 10/11 on him to win this final is a good thing.
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