Ding Junhui’s capture of the inaugural Indian Open today makes him the first player in a decade to win back-to-back ranking titles in a single season.
Ding, who captured the Shanghai Masters crown last month, defeated India’s own Aditya Mehta 5-0.
Mehta had around 75 minutes to prepare himself for the final following an emotionally draining semi-final against Stephen Maguire, whom he led 3-0 before scrambling home 4-3.
That, plus the enormity of the occasion, made it a match too far for Mehta but what a memorable week he had on home soil.
The professional circuit is still 75% British in terms of representation but the fact is that all four major ranking events this season have been won by non-British players and only one Brit (John Higgins in Wuxi) has reached a final.
Most ranking tournaments are based outside the UK. Britain remains the traditional home of the sport but World Snooker are quite right (and there’s a clue in their name) to look outwards to new markets. The opposite of that is what we had before Barry Hearn took over: the slow death of the game.
Ding’s win takes his ranking titles tally to eight, level with Neil Robertson. He is the first player to win back-to-back ranking tournaments in the same campaign since Ronnie O’Sullivan won the 2003 European Open and Irish Masters, playing some of the best snooker of his career.
Titles have been shared around since. Last season all the ranking events were won by different players.
Right now, the best three players in the world are Ding, Robertson and (when he plays) O’Sullivan. It’s a long campaign, though, so no guarantee that will remain the case.
As for the tournament, it seemed to go about as well as it could. Crowds were good and the success of Mehta and his compatriot Pankaj Advani, whom he beat in the quarter-finals, kept local interest alive.
The first ranking tournament staged in Thailand was the 1989 Asian Open. Thailand’s own James Wattana reached the final and there were further ranking events, sometimes two a season, there for a decade.
And snooker has of course flourished in China since Ding’s capture of the 2005 China Open.
So a good week for Ding and a good week for the game. The next event, played this weekend, is the World Seniors Championship, an entertaining diversion, before the serious business of the International Championship in Chengdu.