Ding Junhui fired three centuries and six more breaks over 50 as he reached the last 16 of the Betfred World Championship with a 10-7 win over Anthony McGill.
There were some uncomfortable moments for China’s Ding at the business end of the match as McGill came from 9-5 down to 9-7, but a superb 106 in the 17th frame put Ding into round two. He will face an intriguing clash with Judd Trump next, if Trump gets through his first round test against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
World number ten Ding has had a disappointing season by his standards, failing to reach the semi-finals of a ranking event. The 32-year-old will hope he can finish it in style as he continues his quest to become the first player from Asia to conquer the Crucible.
He built a 6-3 lead in the first session yesterday with runs of 64, 70, 64, 52 and 129. In today’s concluding session he knocked in 99, 134 and 91 to extend his advantage to 9-5.
Scotland’s McGill took a scrappy 15th frame on the colours then came from 42-0 down to snatch the next. But Ding quashed any hopes of a fight back with his third century of the tie.
“I played ok, not that bad,” said Ding, who won his 13th and most recent ranking title at the 2017 Yushan World Open. “At 9-7 it was looking like he could come back to 9-9. In the last frame I missed a chance and I thought ‘this is bad.’ It’s lucky that I left nothing for him and I got another chance. The first round is always tough.
“I’m not worried about who I’m playing next round. I’ve got to face the best players if I want to win the title. Judd is playing great this season. He’s so confident, he wants to beat everybody and he tries to win everything.
“I’m not a big name at this World Championship, which is normal because the fans want to talk about the players in form. I think Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby are the favourites to win. I haven’t had a good season.”
McGill said: “I should have won a couple of more frames yesterday. The match could have gone my way but Ding is some player – just a class act. His cue ball control was so good, it’s such a strength and mine isn’t at the same standard. I don’t think I played that bad. Out of the five times I’ve played here, that is by far the most confident I’ve felt. I really enjoyed it. But he’s just that bit better.
“I’d put Ding right there in terms of contenders. He’s a funny player because he’s a top player but he seems to get some odd results where you think ‘how the hell did he lose that?’ He’s got so much class.
“I’m really excited for next season – my results this year have been so bad but I feel like my game is starting to get there. I’m only a few shots away from playing really well. I’m looking forward to getting back into it and keeping up the good work that I’m doing. Plant the seed, keep watering it, give it some sunshine and it’s going to grow!”
On the other table, four-time Crucible king John Higgins took a 6-3 lead over Mark Davis. Sussex cueman Davis has been a bogey player for Wishaw’s Higgins in recent years, winning six of their last seven matches, but this time the Scot looks in control.
A break of 57 gave Davis the opening frame then Higgins levelled with a 100. The next two were also shared before Higgins stepped up a gear after the interval, taking four of the next five with runs of 61, 75, 84 and 63.
They play to a finish on Monday at 2.30pm with Higgins needing four more frames for victory.