It seems to me that Ding Jun Hui is still suffering as a result of his 10-3 Saga Insurance Masters defeat to Ronnie O’Sullivan in January.

In fact, the Chinese prodigy, who celebrates his 20th birthday today, has won only two matches since.

The hostile Wembley crowd, coupled with O’Sullivan’s brilliance, made for a thoroughly miserable day for Ding, who was so fed up that he attempted to concede the match trailing 9-3.

It was only O’Sullivan’s thoughtfulness that prevented this, though it didn’t stop all parties pretending Ding had thought the final was best of 17 – a notion that is even more absurd some two months on.

Ding did beat Mark Davis 10-6 to reach the Crucible and then defeated Adrian Gunnell in the first round of the China Open but he must have been bitterly disappointed to lose 5-3 to Barry Hawkins in Beijing and exit his home event at the last 32 stage.

He can’t have been too pleased to have drawn O’Sullivan again in the first round of the 888.com World Championship, which gets underway in Sheffield in three weeks time.

Few Crucible debutants have settled immediately in the unique atmosphere at the claustrophobic home of snooker.

Indeed, O’Sullivan is among a number of big names – Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy included – to have lost their first match at the Crucible.

Given Ding’s problems this year, it is hard to see him beating O’Sullivan, though the latter’s own notorious unpredictability may also be a factor. Bookies William Hill is offering 25/1 on either player walking out before the end of the match.

Ding is still only a young man and carries on his shoulders the hopes and expectations of the biggest country in the world.

It is only natural he should start to feel the pressure. The question is, can he turn things round again?


Anonymous said...


I have been thinking about this as well. I will be astounded if Ding turns over O'Sullivan - whichever Ronnie turns up. I remember Stephen Maguire saying how thrilled he was at beating Ding in Malta. But it wasn't the real Ding as we know it. And he faded away in Wales as well.

In China, he looked like a top 16 player, but started showing flaws in his snooker that suggests he is still mentally readjusting to the game after the Masters. I do hope he goes to look around the Crucible prior to the match. Having trained and lived there, he should be well accostumed to the area now. But, like you say, the intimadating atmosphere isn't one for the faint hearted snooker player. This season - I hope - will toughen Ding for his future career.

As for China, I thought Dott was fantastic. He really hasn't been given the expousure for a world champion, he deserves this season. He moaned at the start of the season, about playing on outside tables in Northern Ireland, and it carried on, at least up until the semi-final in China. But the players he beat in the lead-up was superb. What a warning shot he has sent out.

I have this theory about O'Sullivan; he only plays open attacking - without much safety - snooker when he is abroad. I remember he gave up against Dott in Malta in 05. He done exactly the same this year against Holt and, it would have happened had it not been given so many chances last week by Carter and Fu. I knew as soon as Dott had him, that his number was up.

I know we shouldn't read too much into the Rocket's self-assessment post-match press duties, but didn't he say after he lost to Robertson in Wales that he was getting 'his game' in shape for the world championship? Well, he certainly didn't have a game plan in mind, but, if he does pull it off and wins in Sheffield, it'll be his best ever. He may have to beat Robertson/Higgins/Williams to do it!

Wasn't there a drug story to do with Stephen Lee a few months back? Maybe it has something to do with this.

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

Lee wasn't charged with any offence and was understandably unhappy that his name got dragged into the press in the way it did