Ding Junhui insists that having the backing of Ronnie O’Sullivan has given him more confidence he can finally lift the Betfred World Championship after dumping out the fans’ favourite at the Crucible Theatre.
The Chinese ace, who lives in Sheffield, produced some outstanding snooker, winning 13-10 to beat his opponent in a ranking event for the first time in 11 years and set-up an intriguing last-four battle against Mark Selby, who he lost to in the final last year.
The pair embraced at the end and O’Sullivan made a point of whispering words to Ding, before later declaring he hopes the 30-year-old goes on to lift the trophy.
“I am pleased and proud to have the support from Ronnie, this is my dream from when I was a little kid and every year I am here trying to win trophies,” Ding said.
“Last year I came through the qualifiers and learned a lot. This year, I have more confidence to come through.
“I played great, my form from the first frame to the last frame in all of my matches was good. I put Ronnie under pressure, I’m not sure if he feels it but I tried to do it.
“I know I don’t have a good record against Ronnie, I used to think too much about that but now it is easier to make it happen and win frames. This time I am doing well.”
On Thursday, Ding will begin his mouth-watering semi with Selby, who was imperious in his 13-3 win against Marco Fu and the world number four knows he has to be at the top of his game to beat the defending champion.
The pair have met twice this season, with one win each, and another close battle can be expected.
“I need to take my chances, have a good safety and be stronger in the games. I cannot leave him any chances, he can pot from anywhere at the moment,” Ding said.
“He has done well in this season, we have won one each this season so it is a big game for us.”
* Watch the Snooker World Championship Live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player, with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds