RICKY Walden will swap Wembley for Pontin’s next week as he bids to make a return to the country of his greatest triumph.
The Chester-born potter must win through two qualifying rounds in Prestatyn to seal his place in the China Open.
It was in China where the world number 35 won the first ranking title of his career in October.
His landmark success at the Shanghai Masters, in which he beat the likes of Stephen Hendry, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan, earned Walden the final wild card entry to this week’s Masters.
The 26-year-old’s debut at the Wembley Arena started promisingly as he swept aside world number 15 Mark King 6-2 on Sunday night.
Walden said: “The money is big here but the main thing for me was to prove that I deserved to get the wild card and I think I’ve done that by beating an established player like Mark.”
Walden, up to 21st in the provisional rankings, set up a last-16 showdown with defending champion Selby on Monday.
What followed was one of the matches of the tournament so far as the great friends played out a four-and-a-half-hour thriller.
It was well past midnight when world number four Selby won the 11th and final frame to edge a marathon battle 6-5.
Walden, the resident professional at the Chester Snooker Centre on Volunteer Street, could hold his head high, though.
Trailing 4-2, he made a 90 to reduce the deficit before his Selby, 25, responded with a 79 to go two up with three to play.
Walden made an impressive 59 clearance to win frame nine and got the better of a scrappy 10th to level at 5-5.
But, after a long bout of safety at the start of the decider, Selby, ‘The Jester from Leicester’, capitalised on a missed red to make it through to the quarter-finals.