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Sensational Zhao Xintong wins Group Three at the Championship League

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David Gilbert claims maiden ranking title at the Championship League

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Championship League Snooker 2021-22 | Group Four Preview and Order of Play

UK champion Zhao is targeting a second ranking title in eight weeks (Richard Sellers/PA Wire/PA Images)

Zhao Xintong booked his place in the Championship League Winners’ Group after defeating Xiao Guodong 3-2 in the Group Three final.

The UK champion resumed his rich vein of form; winning all eight of his matches at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

Zhao became the third player to book his place in the Winners’ Group alongside Liang Wenbo and Graeme Dott.

Entering the round-robin event with World champion Mark Selby and 2015 winner Stuart Bingham, the world number nine topped Group Three with flying colours; dropping just four frames along the way.

The Cyclone’s incredible scoring power also saw him compile the 100th century break of his career; becoming the 75th player to reach triple figures in professional competition.

Despite a neat 52 clearance to force a re-spotted black, Zhao lost the opening frame of his semi-final with Bingham, who subsequently doubled the black to draw first blood.

However, it proved a false dawn for the 2015 World champion; his opponent responding with breaks of 138 and 92 as he reeled off the next three frames to advance to the final.

Meanwhile, Xiao enjoyed wins over Lu Ning and Ryan Day earlier on Tuesday – making four centuries along the way – while a 3-0 defeat by a resurgent Selby was not enough to deny him a play-off place.

The Jester, who recovered from losing his opening two group matches with four successive wins, lost the first frame of his semi-final against Xiao, despite recovering from 74-4 down to force a re-spotted black.

He responded with 97, but the two-time ranking event winner dominated the next two frames with runs of 79, 52 and 89 setting up an all-Chinese final.

Zhao maintained his momentum; opening with a break of 90 before taking the second frame on the pink.

Xiao hit back brilliantly with contributions of 95 and 96 forcing a decider, but the UK champion recovered with 66 to prevail.

“I played very well over the two days,” Zhao said. “I just wanted to play as I do in practice. In this final, I played very well.

“It was perfect preparation. I will practice more now as I wait for the Masters.”

Championship League Snooker 2021-22 Group Three Results

Monday, January 3

Mark Selby 0-3 Zhao Xintong
Stuart Bingham 2-3 Xiao Guodong
Mark Selby 2-3 Ryan Day
Joe Perry 2-3 Lu Ning
Zhao Xintong 3-1 Stuart Bingham
Ryan Day 0-3 Lu Ning
Mark Selby 3-2 Stuart Bingham
Xiao Guodong 3-2 Joe Perry
Stuart Bingham 3-0 Ryan Day
Zhao Xintong 3-2 Xiao Guodong
Ryan Day 2-3 Joe Perry
Mark Selby 3-1 Lu Ning

Tuesday, January 4

Xiao Guodong 3-2 Lu Ning
Zhao Xintong 3-0 Joe Perry
Xiao Guodong 3-1 Ryan Day
Stuart Bingham 3-2 Joe Perry
Zhao Xintong 3-0 Ryan Day
Stuart Bingham 3-2 Lu Ning
Mark Selby 3-0 Joe Perry
Zhao Xintong 3-1 Lu Ning
Mark Selby 3-0 Xiao Guodong

Zhao Xintong 3-1 Stuart Bingham
Mark Selby 1-3 Xiao Guodong

Zhao Xintong 3-2 Xiao Guodong