Since winning the Shoot Out last year, world no.14 Barry Hawkins has been in the best form of his professional career and yesterday at the Betfair World Snooker Championship he fulfilled one of the biggest ambititions of every snooker player, to reach the world final.
During the first half of his semi-final match against Ricky Walden, the 34-year-old from Ken often struggled for consistancy and seemed to be over-awed by the occasion, having only made a top break of 36 in the first 14 frames.
From 9-7 down he looked a lot more comfortable and he made top breaks of 114, 104 and 66 to finish the session level at 12-12. He then won a further four frames when they resumed to make it eight in a row against Walden, before eventually making it over the line in the 31st frame to see out an ultimately comfortable 17-14 victory.
"I am stunned, it just does not feel real," said Australian Open champion Hawkins. "I felt surprisingly calm. When I speak to everybody back home it will definitely sink in. The phone is back in the hotel. I expect it will be on fire.
"Ricky was by far the better player in the first two sessions, I only hung in there by sheer determination. Then I managed to find a bit of form in the third session and to win the last frame this morning to go 12-12 was massive. I would not have won that match a few years ago, I would have given up.
"In the final I will just go out there in the frame of mind that I can win. If I don't then there is no point in me even turning up. I don't want to think about who I am playing. I will play each ball one at a time and if I can play at the top of my game then who knows."
He will go in to today's Betfair World Snooker Championship final as a huge underdog as he faces a man who is highly rated to lift his fifth world title, the always popular Ronnie O'Sullivan. He looked every bit like being able to defend his title after he dominated the final session against Judd Trump to win through 17-11.
Trump, 14-years O'Sullivan's junior at 23-years-old, was able to keep in touch with the Rocket for the first two sessions, however he just couldn't keep up the momentum and found himself trailing his vastly experienced opponent 14-10 at the end of the third session.
O'Sullivan took the first two to go six up with seven to play before Trump pulled won back with a 77. But it was to be to late for the Ace as O'Sullivan won the last frame he needed with runs of 31, 33 and keep himself in with a chance to be the first to defend the world title since Stephen Hendry in 95' and 96'.
"It was tough because I don't think either of us played anywhere near our best," said O'Sullivan. "There was a lot of tension out there during the sessions. We practise in the same environment and used to have the same manager so obviously that creates a derby match feel.
"Then you have the crowd who are excited by the way Judd plays and over the years I've also had such great support. Everyone was really geared up for it with the newcomer and the future of the game against someone who's been around for a long time and wears his heart on his sleeve.
Today's Betfair World Snooker Championship report was sponsored by PJN SPORTS, the UK's number 1 supplier for snooker and pool equipment. Visit them at www.pjnsports.co.uk for all the latest deals and offers.