David Grace misses out on spot in Northern Ireland Open final

DAVID GRACE admitted he lost to the better man, as his commendable run at the Northern Ireland Open came to an end at the hands of world No.1 Judd Trump at the semi-final stage.

David Grace.

The 35-year-old was competing in just the second ranking event semi-final of his career, having seen off David Gilbert, Sam Craigie, Michael White, Michael Holt and Yan Bingtao in Milton Keynes, where the tournament is being staged due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite striking first with the match’s opening frame, Grace soon found himself back on level terms when a half century helped Trump take the second, and the Bristol potter quickly found his rhythm, earning a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Trump continued where he left off after the break, going through the gears to claim the game’s only ton to stretch his lead to three frames, before knocking a break of 59 to put himself on the brink of victory.

Having recovered from 3-0 down against Holt in Round 4 there was no doubt that world No.67 Grace would fight until the end, and he reduced his disadvantage to 5-2 despite missing a black off its spot.

But there wasn’t to be a fairy-tale comeback this time, with a break of 92 booking Trump’s spot in the showpiece against Ronnie O’Sullivan for the third successive year, where he is bidding to become the first player since Stephen Hendry in 1996 to win the same event three years running.

While ultimately unable to reach a first-ever ranking event final, Grace’s run at the Marshall Arena is the highlight of a promising start to the 2020/21 season, in which he has also reached the second and third rounds of the European Masters and English Open respectively.

And with an opening round match-up against Ian Burns in store at the upcoming UK Championship, the Leeds-based star is confident his latest showing will stand him in good stead at the first Triple Crown event of the campaign.

“There’s no disgrace losing to Judd - he’s the best player in the world at the moment,” Grace said. “Every match this week I’ve scored quite well, but I just didn’t manage to string anything together tonight.

“I didn’t really do anything to hurt him in the whole game. I made too many silly mistakes, and my safety wasn’t good enough as well.

“But there are plenty of positives to take and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season now.”

PLEASE LEAVE IN FINAL PAR - Watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport app, and stream on discovery+