Ding Junhui won the first ever world ranking event in India with a superb performance to beat home favourite Aditya Mehta 5-0 in the final of the Indian Open.
The incredible run of Mehta was brought to an end as he had no answer to the brilliance of Ding in a one-sided final at the Meridien Hotel in New Delhi.
China’s Ding won his eighth world ranking title and second in a row having triumphed at the Shanghai Masters last month. He is the first player to win back-to-back ranking titles in the same season since Ronnie O’Sullivan won the European Open and Irish Masters in 2003.
Having also reached the final of the Ruhr Open European Tour event in between those two ranking crowns, Ding is currently showing the most consistent form of his career. The 26-year-old, who received £50,000 plus the £2,000 high break prize for a stunning 142 in his semi-final against Robbie Williams, will be aiming for a hat-trick of ranking titles when he plays in the International Championship in Chengdu later this month.
Despite Ding’s supremacy, this tournament will be remembered for Mehta’s historic run as never before had an Indian player been beyond the last eight of a ranking event. Inspired by enthusiastic fans in his homeland, he picked the perfect week to produce the best snooker of his life so far.
World Games gold-medallist Mehta, who practises with Ding at the Star Academy in Sheffield, showcased a fine all-round game in winning several dramatic matches, notably against friend and compatriot Pankaj Advani in the quarter-finals.
The fairytale finish eluded Mehta but he and Advani are becoming outstanding role models for snooker in India, on and off the table, and at the end of a wonderful week it’s clear that there is potential for the sport to grow in India.
Remarkably, this was the second consecutive ranking final featuring two Asian players, following Ding’s defeat of China’s Xiao Guodong in Shanghai, underlining the growing influence of the continent on snooker.
Mehta had chances in the opening frame but couldn’t capitalise and Ding took it with well-crafted 52 clearance. After that he shut his opponent out as Mehta scored just two points in the remainder of the match. Ding piled in breaks of 81, 107, 93 and 100 as he cruised through the last four frames before lifting the trophy.
“It feels great to be the champion at the first ever ranking tournament in India,” said Ding, who beat the likes of John Higgins and Neil Robertson in reaching the final. “Especially to play against Aditya in the final. I’m proud for myself and I’m enjoying this. I’ll rest for the next few days then hope to do well in the next tournament.
“I think I am playing the best snooker of my career. I have improved and I’m stronger. I still have a lot of things to learn.
“The Indian snooker fans are very good and they understand the game. The arena is good here and never gets sticky.
“Aditya has improved so much. He has a very good safety game and he is strong. He’s getting better and better.”
Mehta said: “I have learned a lot from this tournament and there are a lot of positives. I have reached milestones ever year in my career and this is the greatest so far. My hard work is bearing fruit. I want to keep achieving my goals and make a career out of snooker.
“A few years ago I would never have predicted this. My heart has been in the right place and I have put the right amount of work in, and shown myself that nothing is impossible. I am very proud to have represented India in this tournament and for the fact that the event has been successful.
“I was mentally drained going into the final because I have had so many close matches which took everything out of me. I was completely gone. I needed a good start because when Ding gets on a roll, no one can stop him. Next time I will be more fit mentally and physically.
“I wasn’t surprised by how well Ding played because he does it every day in practice. His cue ball control, potting and safety game, I see it day in and day out. That’s what I aspire to.”