Leeds cueman David Grace is determined to build on a great week at the Northern Ireland Open

So close: Leeds’s David Grace reached the last four of the Northern Ireland Open where he lost to eventual winner, Judd Trump. Picture: YPNSo close: Leeds’s David Grace reached the last four of the Northern Ireland Open where he lost to eventual winner, Judd Trump. Picture: YPN
So close: Leeds’s David Grace reached the last four of the Northern Ireland Open where he lost to eventual winner, Judd Trump. Picture: YPN
DAVID GRACE is hell-bent on proving his run to a second ranking event semi-final of his career is more than just a flash in the pan.

The Leeds player embarked on a thrilling journey at last week’s Northern Ireland Open as he reached the last four of a major tournament for the first time since the UK Championship in 2015. Grace, the world No 67, stunned his higher-ranked opponents as memorable wins against Michael Holt – from 3-0 behind – and Chinese sensation Yan Bingtao booked a semi-final date with world No 1 Judd Trump under the Saturday night lights.

Yorkshire’s underdog went down 6-2 against the 2019 king of the Crucible but Grace, who faces Ian Burns in the first round of the UK Championship on Monday, wants his unforgettable Home Nations heroics to lay the foundations for glory.

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“I’m delighted with every single win I got,” said Grace, 35.

“I don’t get to the semis every week so it’s a nice moment in my career.

“It would have been nicer to go further but that just shows how hard it is to get to finals or win events.

“Right from round one I’ve been second favourite for every game I’ve played. It takes some doing getting to the semis of any tournament so it’s been a positive week.

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“The first time I got to the semi-finals it came out of nowhere, and now this is proving that it wasn’t one hit.

“I’d like to be more consistent and move up the rankings.

“The more I get in those positions, I think the more comfortable I’ll feel and the better chance I’ll have of winning overall.

“That’s what everyone dreams of winning – a tournament at some stage. The higher up I get and the more I get into those positions, that will give me more of an opportunity to do that going forward.”

Grace delivered multiple moments of Milton Keynes escapology as he battled from 3-0 down to beat Shoot Out champion Holt in a Thursday night epic.

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He then safely navigated his way past world No 13 Yan and despite making a valiant break of 50 against Trump, a date with last year’s world champion – who struck a maximum 147 break in his second round match on Wednesday – proved a step too far.

Two-time defending champion Trump was in masterful form at the Marshall Arena as visits of 101, 92, 91, 59 and 57 left Grace in his chair and ended his hopes of a maiden major final.

Grace reached the last eight of last season’s Gibraltar Open and has endured a turbulent few years on the globetrotting snooker circuit, reaching the World Championship in 2017 but also slipping to a series of premature exits at ranking events.

He’s started the current campaign promisingly, however, reaching the second and third rounds of the European Masters and English Open before his most recent performance last week.

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World No 66 Burns lies in wait for Grace on Monday as the pair do battle in the UK Championship, one of snooker’s Triple Crown events alongside the World Championship and Masters.

Grace accepts the better man won on Saturday but hopes bolstering his clinical edge can catapult him towards emulating that run to the semi-finals in York five years ago.

“I had a few chances and I never really did anything that was going to put him under pressure,” he added.

“He upped his scoring and that was the difference in the end.

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“When you have a run like that all you want to do is follow it up.

“Hopefully if I can get through my [first match] I can go on for a few days, regroup a little bit and look forward to the rest of it.”

After seeing off Grace, Trump went on to win a third successive title, with a third straight triumph in the final over Ronnie O’Sullivan, who had knocked out Ali Carter 6-3 in the semis.

The world No 1 beat the world champion 9-7 in Milton Keynes, becoming the first player to win the same ranking event for three consecutive years since former world champion Stephen Hendry at the UK Championship in 1996.

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The Northern Ireland Open was live on Eurosport, Eurosport app, and stream on discovery+

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