Saturday 18 August 2018

Ding brushes compatriot aside in Crucible opener


Ding Junhui. Photo: Getty
Ding Junhui. Photo: Getty Sportsdesk

Ding Junhui underlined his Betfred World Championship ambitions by closing out victory over Chinese compatriot Xiao Guodong in little more than an hour when play resumed yesterday.

The world No 3 held a healthy 6-3 overnight lead and quickly reeled off four frames in a row to clinch a 10-3 first round win, setting up a clash with either Anthony McGill or Ryan Day next.

It was an encouraging opening display from Ding, whose bid to become the first Chinese player to go all the way in this competition saw him bounce back from an early 2-0 deficit on Monday, notching one century and seven 50-plus breaks along the way.

He said: "I played well in the end. I just went for my shots and made some breaks. I didn't play a lot of safety, I just went for the shots without caring, it surprised me.

"Xiao is always looking to beat me. You could see in the first session he played quite well at the start to lead 2-0. He's a good player, but he doesn't have that much experience of beating the top 16. He needs more experience to improve."

Ding's serene progress is in stark contrast to the fortunes of those above him in the rankings, with world No 1 Mark Selby already eliminated and Ronnie O'Sullivan labouring before eventually coming through.

Ding added: "I'm confident in my form but I try not to worry about form too much, I'm just looking forward to another chance. It's good to smile out there, it takes the pressure away if I play some bad shots.

"Everyone is under pressure here, but Mark Selby had the most pressure because he was the defending champion. It surprised me that he lost in the first round.

"I'd like to play Ronnie O'Sullivan later in the tournament because I want to improve myself and I want to play the hardest ones to beat."

Elsewhere, Luca Brecel became the fourth top-16 player to be eliminated as he suffered a 10-6 loss to Ricky Walden.

Brecel was 8-3 down but won the next three frames to increase the pressure, only for qualifier Walden to hold off the comeback and get over the line.

"My mind was a bit scrambled, I was making a lot of mistakes, I just tried to clear my mind," Walden said. "(I was) lucky to get through there in the end. The qualifying... if you can manage to scrap your way through, you are sharper for it."

Irish Independent

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