Ding Junhui may be the most maddeningly difficult player to predict among the elite.

Few would argue he is one of the best break builders in the game. He has won plenty of titles and is capable of world class snooker.

At other times it just isn’t there. He has struggled back home in China and his Crucible record isn’t great: only once has he been past the second round in six previous appearances.

That was two years ago when he lost 17-15 to Judd Trump in the semi-finals. This was a terrific match and appeared to point to Ding settling down at the Crucible, a venue he had seemed to have problems with.

But then last year he was beaten 10-9 in the first round by Ryan Day, squandering a 9-6 lead. He was so upset that he swore – in English – during the press conference that followed.

So how will he go this year?

Nobody who witnessed his phenomenal performance from 3-0 down to beat Neil Robertson 4-3 in the final of the PTC Grand Finals in Galway last month can be in any doubt about just how well Ding can play.

This was about as good as snooker gets, particularly as it came against a top drawer opponent.

In fact, Ding played superbly all week in Galway. The obvious point to make, though, is that all the matches were best of seven sprints. A different temperament altogether is required for the 17 day marathon in Sheffield.

Here, mental cracks are brutally exposed. It’s not about short bursts of inspiration but concentrated stamina over long distances.

Ding suggested in 2011 that he was up to this. He didn’t do much wrong to lose to Trump.

Many would agree that he’s due a good Crucible run but that doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that he will have one.

It certainly doesn’t help that he’s landed in the Quarter of Death alongside Mark Allen, Mark Selby and Lord knows who else once the draw is made. It seems he will have to play well right from the off.

If Ding won the world title it would prove to his Chinese fans, so often disappointed by his displays on home soil, that he’s the real deal.

Everyone else knows that he is capable of producing the kind of snooker you need to win the game’s greatest prize. To do so, though, he must sustain it over long periods and be determined to fight like he’s never fought before.


Anonymous said...

Ding... One hundred million reasons why the pressure of the big one appears to overtake events . Tim Henman may have has a similar emotion with Wimbledon

Btw good article in today's Sunday times, not all press is ill informed...

Mike Mouse said...

I don't think it helped that Ding was so young and couldn't understand English, let alone the aggression of the partisan crowds in London (versus Ronnie) which really set his game back. It's good to see him smiling and relaxing more.

John H said...

quarter of death? I suspect Ding would rather have to beat potentially Allen and Selby in consecutive 25 frame matches than face the route Bingham has with Higgins and O'Sullivan to beat for a place in the Semi's.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how much ground he has lost isn't it? Back in 2005/2006 when he broke onto the scene Selby and Robertson were nowhere to be seen and they were quite a bit older than him, but they pushed on and have developed into much more rounded players. Personally I think he's more talented than either of them, but nothing about his performances this season indicates he can beat either of them over 3/4 sessions this year.

Anonymous said...

Ding would need to have his top form in his semi and the final. And then even his very best might not be good enough to beat Robertson and O'Sullivan.

Anonymous said...

So, Milkens shoots Bambi.
Would have been a real feel good story to see Jimmy walk down the stairs at the Crucible once more. Not to be.
He'll win it next year !

Anonymous said...

Good card player.
Hence the walk on music Poker Face by Lady Gaga.

Anonymous said...

Unlucky jimmy !! Maybe next year, I hate that Milkins he's such a bore.

kimball said...

2.11, you are quite incorrect.Robbo
lost 12-13 in the quarter to Dott 2006.Selby 2nd rd to Williams.
2005 Selby lost to Higgins and Robertson to Hendry in the 1st round.
Remember that none was worked as hard
as Ding when he broke through.
Coming to defend his UK title 2006
and playing at once after coming
from Dohha where he won three gold-
medal for China in the Asian games.
Masters final 2007 + 1rd in Wch 2-10 against O*Sullivan knocked Junhui back 2yrs.For anybody with
eyes in the head, Ding thrives in
long games, the loss against Day?
Well shit happens, Day knocked Higgins away when he was titleholder.Ding also beat Selby 11
10-7, 10-10 became 13-10.
The draw is tuff but so for the opponents.
Dreamfinal:John Higgins vs Ding Junhui

Anonymous said...

Ronnie v ding

Anonymous said...

Kimball, by the 2006 WC when Ding was being hotly tipped Robertson and Selby had accomplished very little, and were certainly not regarded as contenders. Selby had reached a final a few years earlier, but Ding was light years ahead of them at the time.

kimball said...

1218: Sure agree, but can't imagine
O'Sullivan making it to the final
but the draw is on his side.Finalist
from the bottom halv will likely be
very knackered.

kimball said...

1:24, ranking 05/06:
Robertson 28
Selby 39
Junhui 62


Robertson 13
Selby 27
Junhui 26