Zhang Anda goes from considering retirement to International Championship title

Mighty Mouse is the big cheese in Tianjin.

Zhang Anda goes from considering retirement to International Championship title
Zhang Anda
Zhang Anda made a maximum on his way to a first ranking title (Picture: WST)

Zhang Anda has completed the greatest week of his snooker career by beating Tom Ford 10-6 to win the International Championship, pocketing £175,000 in the process.

The 31-year-old had never been to a ranking semi-final before last month’s English Open, but he finished runner-up in Brentwood and has gone one better on Sunday in Tianjin.

He did so in style as well, making a 147 in the third frame of the final and two more centuries on his way to the title.

The huge financial prize will see him soar up the rankings from number 37 into the top 16, which means he will not have to go through qualifying for the UK Championship and he will now have his eye on a Masters debut in January.

Mighty Mouse hardly had a comfortable run to his first title, beating Mark Williams in the second round, Ding Junhui in the quarter-finals and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semis, before getting the better of Ford in the showpiece.

After the huge win he revealed that he had considered hanging up his cue during the height of the Covid pandemic, when he was languishing down the rankings, but is very glad he did not.

‘I’m feeling extremely excited. During the pandemic, I had considered retiring and giving up,’ Zhang told WST. ‘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.

‘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.’

Tom Ford and Zhang Anda
Tom Ford and Zhang Anda contested an unlikely International Championship final (Picture: WST)

Ford will be disappointed he missed out on a first ranking title himself, but also had a superb week, beating the likes of Mark Selby, Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu.

The £75,000 runner-up prize will also see the Englishman climb the rankings and into the top 16 as well, which puts him in the same spot as Zhang ahead of the UK and Masters.

The 40-year-old 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.’

Considering both players were competing in the biggest match of their lives, it was an impressively high quality affair.

Both made half centuries as the first two frames were shared, then Zhang produced the incredible 147 in the third, the second maximum of a career which is taking off spectacularly.

Ford wasn’t rattled, though, knocking in a 93 in the next and got into a lead at 4-3, before Zhang made 86 and 101 to end the first session 5-4 ahead.

2023 International Championship - Day 8
Tom Ford’s search for a first ranking title will continue (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

The Englishman came back for the evening session impressively, making 91 to level up again but then Mighty Mouse got on a roll, winning the next four frames, with efforts of 71, 65 and 108 along the way.

Just one frame from defeat, Ford kept the game alive in the 15th and looked set to be winning the next before unexpectedly missing a black off the spot on 51. Zhang stepped in and nervelessly cleared up with a 70 to get his hands on the trophy.

With the win, Zhang books his spot in next week’s Champion of Champions in Bolton, where he will take on Ronnie O’Sullivan in his opening contest on Wednesday.

The Rocket will be hoping for revenge after defeat to Zhang in the semi-finals as he looks to defend the title he won last year by beating Judd Trump in the final.

MORE : Tom Ford looks to step up as he sets up biggest match of his life in International Championship final

MORE : Zhang Anda trying not to think about Ronnie O’Sullivan challenge at International Championship

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