MAXIMUM! Higgins Entertains Glasgow Crowd With Ninth Career 147

Ding Matches Hendry’s Record

0,,13165~12735596,00

Ding Junhui won a record-equalling fifth ranking title of the season by beating Neil Robertson 10-5 in the final of the China Open.

PICTURES by Tai Chengzhe

China’s Ding matched the record set by Stephen Hendry in the 1990/91 season by adding the China Open crown to the Shanghai Masters, Indian Open, International Championship and German Masters won earlier in the season. The 27-year-old goes into the Dafabet World Championship with a chance to set a new record.

Ding’s superb break-building and all-round game shone through as he stormed to the £85,000 top prize in front of his fans in Beijing. World number one Robertson has been suffering from a virus all week and struggled to find the energy to compete with his in-form opponent. The Australian fell 6-1 behind in the early stages and never recovered.

Ding now has a career total of 11 ranking titles, moving him ahead of Jimmy White and sixth on his own on the all-time list, behind Hendry (36), Steve Davis (28), Ronnie O’Sullivan (26), John Higgins (25) and Mark Williams (18).

Breaks of 87 and 61 put Ding 2-0 up and he nicked the third frame on the final black. Robertson, who was defending the title and chasing his third ranking crown of the season, pulled one back but Ding then stepped up a gear to win the next three frames with top runs of 119 and 59.

Robertson won the eighth frame with a 102, he first century of the tournament and 93rd of the season, which means he’ll need seven at the Crucible for a historic ton of tons. Ding cleared from brown to black to go 7-2 up, then after Robertson had won the next with a 57, the Chinese ace made a 104 for 8-3.

Frame 12 went to Robertson after he cleared from the last red, but again Ding responded to restore his cushion with a 67. Still Robertson battled and a 57 made it 9-5, but Ding’s run of 66 in frame 15 settled the result.

“Neil was tenacious, especially during the second session,” said Ding. “I spent a lot of energy to restrict his performance during the first session and tried my best to score whenever I got the chance. I tried to win the frames in one visit and played good safety. I tried very hard and it paid off to take a 7-2 lead, and that made the second session relatively easy.

“I have played well since the Shanghai Masters last year and I’m not feeling that much pressure. In a final you will always face the best players in the world and you will know their game well. You will expect to play against experienced players so I was not as relaxed as previous matches.

“I can’t tell my feelings now about winning five ranking titles this season. With so many wins, my mindset is very different than before. I’m getting more and more experienced, playing many finals, especially playing Ronnie O’Sullivan in Welsh Open final. I think I learned a lot from that match. I hope there will be more finals to come.”

Robertson said: “I woke up feeling pretty well today. The start of the match was important. For me to win today it needed to be an open and high-scoring game. Ding made few mistakes and his safety was very good. I wasn’t able to hold my concentration for long enough in the safety battles to compete with him. I gave it everything but it was one match too far for me. I had nothing left in the tank.

“Ding has had a fantastic season. I want to congratulate him on winning five ranking titles and equalling the record. He will take a lot of stopping in Sheffield along with maybe myself and Ronnie O’Sullivan – probably at the moment the only two players who can beat him at the World Championship.

“This season there’s been an Australian and a Chinese player winning most of the ranking titles which makes a nice difference from British players winning everything for the last 20 years.”