MAXIMUM! Higgins Entertains Glasgow Crowd With Ninth Career 147

Ding Prince Of Wales

China’s Ding Junhui beat Mark Selby 9-6 in a high quality final to win the 888真人 Welsh Open for the first time.

In a superb match which featured five centuries and seven more breaks over 50, Ding, a master of positional play at close range, came out on top to win the £30,000 top prize and fifth world ranking title of his career.

Having won the Masters last season and reached the semi-finals of the World Championship, 24-year-old Ding did not live up to expectations in the first half of the current campaign. But this victory signals a return to form for one of snooker’s biggest talents. And if he maintains the same standard for the next few weeks, he will stand alongside the likes of Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan as the leading contenders at the Crucible in the Spring.

Ding came within millimetres of elimination early in the tournament at the Newport Centre as Higgins needed pink and black to beat him 4-2 but rattled the pink in the jaws of a corner pocket. Handed a reprieve, Ding may have felt he was destined to win the trophy.

The player from Wuxi in the Jiangsu Province near Shanghai has now won more ranking events than all other Asian players put together, as Thailand’s James Wattana has won three and Hong Kong’s Marco Fu one.

Together with girlfriend Apple, Ding seems as relaxed and happy as he has ever been away from the table, and has just bought a five-bedroom house in Sheffield close to his practice base. Contentment in his personal life may well help him to thrive in his profession.

Leicester’s 28-year-old Selby missed out on his third ranking title and second of the season, but has stretched his lead at the top of the world rankings.

Selby, 5-3 down after the first session, won the first frame tonight with a break of 73 then Ding hit back with an 83 to lead 6-4. The Asian ace led 34-0 in the next when he missed an easy red to a top corner, and Selby punished him with a run of 91.

Ding shrugged off that mistake and made a break of 124 to lead 7-5 at the mid-session interval, then stayed in top gear in frame 13 with a 130 total clearance to go three up with four to play.

Selby, drawing on the memory of the 2008 final when he came from 8-5 down to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-8, responded superbly with a 145 total clearance which was the highest break of the tournament and earned him a £1,000 bonus.

Frame 15 was one of the scrappiest of the match, but Ding eventually forged a chance and scored 42 which put him in control. And when Selby missed a long pot on the third-last red, Ding added the points he needed to secure the title.

“It feels great,” said Ding after the match. “I was nervous during the final and missed a few chances. Mark kept the pressure on me and it was a hard game. In practice I have been feeling good and playing like I was a few years ago.

“Apple has helped a lot because she looks after me, cooks for me and gives me time to practise every day. It’s much better for me than before. I bought the house in Sheffield two days ago, I have just got the keys. I will put a snooker table in the garage so I can play on my own if I am not going to the Academy. I can park the car outside, the table is more important!”

Looking ahead to the World Championship, Ding added: “I have a chance. Last year i got to the semi-finals so I have experience of the long matches. I was disappointed last year because I made one mistake on a break of 40 against Judd Trump (when he led 15-14) which cost me the match. If I had got to the final I think I would have had a better chance than Judd to win. I will try very hard.

“I didn’t have a good start to the season and coming here I felt I could lose in the first round. Now I will try to do well in every tournament.”

Selby said: “The frame I lost to go 2-2 rather than 3-1 up was probably the turning point, even if it didn’t seem like it at the time. I had my fair share of chances in the match and you can’t afford to miss them against a player of Ding’s class. He’s one of the best break-builders.

“At 5-3 down I had to take my chances and I didn’t take enough of them. I never give up until the last ball is potted and if I could have got to 8-7 I would have been right in it, but every credit to Ding for how well he played. I’m taking the positives out of the week because I’ve turned my form around and with more hard work hopefully I can win another title this season.”

Results

Monday February 13

11am
1 Ryan Day 0-4 Michael Holt
4 Ding Junhui 4-0 Mark Davis

Not before 1.30pm
14 Judd Trump 4-0 Fergal O’Brien
8 Ali Carter 3-4 Steve Davis

Not before 2pm
7 Shaun Murphy 4-2 Mark Joyce
6 Graeme Dott 2-4 Tom Ford

Not before 7pm
3 John Higgins 4-1 Liang Wenbo
2 Dominic Dale 2-4 Sam Baird

Tuesday February 14

1pm
11 Mark Williams 4-3 Andy Hicks
5 Stephen Lee 4-1 Michael Holt

Not before 2pm
10 Neil Robertson 1-4 Stephen Hendry
13 Stuart Bingham 4-2 Mark King

7pm
18 Mark Selby 4-3 Sam Baird
17 Martin Gould 4-2 Peter Ebdon

Wednesday February 15

1pm
12 Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-1 Marco Fu
9 Mark Allen 4-0 Ken Doherty

Not before 2pm
16 Matthew Stevens 4-3 Barry Hawkins
15 Stephen Maguire 4-2 Adam Wicheard

7pm
19 John Higgins 3-4 Ding Junhui
21 Shaun Murphy 4-0 Steve Davis

Thursday February 16

1pm
23 Mark Williams 1-4 Ronnie O’Sullivan
25 Stephen Maguire 4-2 Matthew Stevens

Not before 2pm
20 Tom Ford 1-4 Stephen Lee
22 Mark Allen 4-0 Stephen Hendry

7pm
24 Stuart Bingham 1-4 Judd Trump
26 Martin Gould 1-4 Mark Selby

Friday February 17

1.30pm
QF3 Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3 Judd Trump
QF2 Shaun Murphy 5-4 Mark Allen

7pm
QF1 Ding Junhui 5-4 Stephen Lee
QF4 Stephen Maguire 3-5 Mark Selby

Saturday February 18

1pm
SF1 Ding Junhui 6-2 Shaun Murphy

7pm
SF2 Ronnie O’Sullivan 2-6 Mark Selby

Sunday February 19

1pm
Ding Junhui 9-6 Mark Selby

7pm
Ding Junhui 9-6 Mark Selby

All matches are best of seven frames up until the quarter-finals (best of nine), semis (best of 11) and final (best of 17 (8-9))