It would be ironic if a tournament that threatened to turn into a damp squib after so many big names went out early ended up with a final that became the most watched match in snooker history.

When Ding Junhui beat Marco Fu 10-9 in the first round of the World Championship three years ago the estimated viewing audience in China was in excess of 100 million.

Even with the time difference, the first ever all-Asian major final is likely to attract huge figures in the Far East.

There are still fans - and even players - who would rather snooker stayed away from China. Piffling complaints about the time difference and culture ignore the fact that snooker peaked in the UK 25 years ago and needs to exploit new markets.

The levels of participation in China have sky-rocketed since Ding won the 2005 China Open. I've been to a Star factory out there which is a 24/7 operation, such is the demand.

Ordinary working Chinese are often priced out of buying tickets for tournaments but they tune in to TV coverage in considerable numbers.

They - and the rest of us - could be in for a treat today given how well Ding and Fu played to reach the final.

Fu produced three great frames, which would have been three centuries had he not missed the green on 97 in the middle frame, to come from 4-1 down to 4-4 with Mark Allen before scrapping through the last two.

Ding was relaxed, confident and polished in repelling the challenge of Jamie Cope, 6-3, to reach a second Masters final.

The first, famously, ended with him breaking down in tears but he starts favourite today to land the game's most prestigious invitation title.

It may well be very close. When Fu gets into his stride he is an awesome scorer - tenth on the all time list of century makers. This run has come out of nowhere. His form of late has been so erratic that he's dropped out of the top 16, but he will be inspired by the chance to play - and beat - Ding at Wembley Arena.

Ding has twice won the UK Championship and, at the age of 23, has the pedigree to win many more major titles.

So despite all the shocks and surprises this week, the stage is set for a historic meeting of China v Hong Kong in London, symbolic of the changing tides of snooker.


Anonymous said...

Is this the first sure sign of snooker becoming the next badminton? If the shift happens then the slow death of UK interest will be due to the powers that be being so keen on pushing the sport the the East. Focus on the enormous interest in Europe make it grow here instead of this defeatist attitude. It is sad to watch and this is one of the least exciting finals to ever face us.

We are not there yet but in the coming decades Rob Walker may just simply announce: bring out the robots.

Betty Logan said...

I don't think it's a coincidence that the two men who made the final are the two men who don't celebrate Christmas...I honestly believe the reason the tournament was so poor is because the players didn't have sufficient preparation time for it.

As for Ding and Fu, both players deserve to be in the final; Ding is playing like a champion and Fu proved yesterday he's playing well enough to give Ding a game.

Anonymous said...

The crowds for the UK events this season, especially now that not a single match of the Masters appears to have had a full audience, not even the final, is overwhelming evidence that snooker needs to move out of the UK. I vote for the Masters, Worlds, Welsh and 6 PTC's to stay in the UK, the rest moves away to other countries in Europe. Especially the World Open HAS to move away!

Anonymous said...

parrott must be gutted having to watch the snooker with the Anfield derby on

Anonymous said...


you could say hes as sick as a john

Billy said...

Rob walker is like a robot how anyone could expect a talentless guy like him to get fans upbeat is beyond me.We need the chinese influence and there money,i have a few friends who are professional snooker players and if outside top 16 it is hard to make a living.Look at the logos on waistcoats,almost all chinese. With an expected audience of 200 million tv viewers in china for final. My boy wants to be a snooker player and i will be happy if he is wealthy and famous in china if he is unknown here.

Anonymous said...

I think Hendry has been superb as a colour commentator this week. His thoughtful insight and understanding of the game makes a refreshing change from 'where's the cue ball going' Virgo and 'he's just gone favourite' Thorne. I would like to hear more from him in the future, though would welcome a return to his playing form to prevent this of course.

Anonymous said...

At the first session interval the final from 1998 was shown, Hendry v Williams i have to say the pockets on that table looked a lot tighter than the table used this week.

Anonymous said...

star tables corner pockets play easier. their middles play as tight if not tighter than the old table makes

Anonymous said...

Boy did the match turn in frame 11 where Ding got the snooker.

7-4 instead of 6-5 made a huge difference.

I'm glad Ding won the event to make up for his 2007 final drubbing though still wonder how his slightly suspect temprement would have fared in a tighter battle with Marco but we never got to find that out.

Other Masters Finals have been closer and had more tension but the all Asian final will always be an historic moment in the sport regardless of the scoreline.

Anonymous said...


jamie brannon said...

Fu is still classed as Hong Kong. However, with it now back under Chinese rule, this seems a little odd.