Snooker: World crown looming as China's Ding is on cue

Ding Junhui.
Ding Junhui.

Chinese could be first Asian snooker world champion if he beats world No. 1 Mark Selby

LONDON • China's Ding Junhui could become the first Asian player to win snooker's World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield today.

The 29-year-old is already the first Asian to reach the final, after he won his semi-final in record style on Saturday, with a break of 123 to beat the experienced Scottish cueman Alan McManus 17-11.

In the final, he will encounter 2014 champion Mark Selby, the world No. 1, who prevented an all-Asian final when he defeated Hong Kong's Marco Fu 17-15.

Ding's seventh century break of the semi-final saw him surpass the previous record of most centuries (six) in a Crucible match held jointly by Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

"I feel peaceful at the moment, just like normal. I want to be excited but my heart tells me it's like normal," said Ding.

HUMILITY GOES A LONG WAY

I feel peaceful at the moment, just like normal. I want to be excited but my heart tells me it's like normal.

DING JUNHUI, Chinese snooker player, on being the first Asian to reach the World Championship final.

In the modern history of the World Championship, the only two winners from beyond Britain and Ireland are Canada's Cliff Thorburn (1980) and Australia's Neil Robertson (2010).

According to World Snooker, 27.1 per cent of China's television audience tuned in to watch Ding's semi-final on CCTV5, the state broadcaster.

"There's more and more supporters in China, it's crazy like that. I want to stay away from that and keep calm," said Ding.

"I've had a lot of messages. My phone's almost blown up."

McManus said Ding's play was incredible and believes the Chinese can win the final.

"I think there's only one person stopping him and it's himself," said the Scot.

Ding has been tipped to become a world champion since he won the UK Championship, snooker's second-most important title, as an 18-year-old.

The 2013-14 season saw him match snooker great Stephen Hendry's record of five ranking titles in a season and he rose to world No. 1 in December 2014.

The Fu-Selby marathon had a controversial moment when Fu appeared to touch a red ball with his index finger when looking to play a safety shot. But referee Brendan Moore did not call a foul and Fu did not appear to realise his infraction.

"I haven't got a clue which shot you're talking about," he said.

"I think it's just when you're focused, it's very tough."

Selby took more than an hour to win the final frame and book his place in the final.

"For three sessions I was really poor," said the Englishman, whose head-to-head career record with Ding stands at 10 wins apiece.

"When Marco was in, it looked like an art, and when I was in, it looked like a scribble. I'm just happy to get through."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Crown looming as Ding is on cue'. Print Edition | Subscribe