Mark Selby v Barry Hawkins: China Open 2018 final preview – Jester and Hawk vie for lucrative crown

Jamie Shaw in China Open

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John Higgins survives Noppon Saengkham scare as Ricky Walden breezes past Stuart Bingham at the China Open

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Majestic Mark Selby thrashes Barry Hawkins to retain China Open title

Selby shakes hands with Hawkins (credit: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Reigning champion Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins will battle it out for the richest prize outside of the World Championship when they meet in the final of the China Open on Sunday.

The prestigious world ranking tournament carries a total prize fund of ¬£1 million for the first time this year, with Sunday’s winner pocketing ¬£225,000 and securing the final available silverware before heading to The Crucible in a fortnight’s time.

Selby is in the midst of a 20-match unbeaten run in this competition, having claimed the title for the first time in 2015 before pulling out of the event in 2016 and going on to regain the trophy a year later.

The world number one has enjoyed a timely return to form in Beijing this week following an indifferent start to 2018 which had seen him surpass the Quarter-Final stage in just one of his last six televised tournaments.

Selby safely came through his qualifying match 6-4 against Wang Yuchen before gaining revenge on Scott Donaldson – who knocked him out of this season’s UK Championship.

Selby then defeated fellow Leicester cueist Ben Woollaston 6-3 before thrashing Lyu Haotian 6-1 and overcoming three-time China Open king Mark Williams with a 6-2 triumph in the Quarter-Finals.

The 34-year-old secured his spot in the final courtesy of a 10-8 victory over Masters runner-up Kyren Wilson and is now looking to maintain his strong recent record in ranking finals, having won each of his last five.

Hawkins, meanwhile, is appearing in his second ranking final of the campaign, following on from last month’s Welsh Open, and is bidding for his first silverware since the 2017 World Grand Prix.

The Ditton ace launched his run with a 6-3 defeat of Sam Baird before thrashing Michael White 6-1 and edging out in-form Cao Yupeng in a last-frame decider.

He then held his nerve again to deny Tom Ford 6-5 before producing a terrific display to defeat Neil Robertson 10-6 in Saturday’s Semi-Finals.

The world number eight will be encouraged by his positive head-to-head record against Selby, having won seven of their 14 previous meetings, including a 6-3 triumph in the Quarter-Finals of the 2017 Masters.

Their latest encounter will be contested over the best of 21 frames, commencing at 6am BST and resuming to a finish from 12.30pm at the Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium in Beijing.