SNOOKER legend Jimmy White has backed Ding Junhui to win this year’s Betfred.com World Championship title.
The ‘Whirlwind’ is a big fan of Sheffield-based Chinese cueman Ding - and believes the exciting 25-year-old is now experienced enough to win the sport’s biggest tournament.
This year’s 17-day marathon gets underway on Saturday, offering a cool £250,000 top prize and a pot of £1.1million worth of prize money.
“Ding could win it this year,” predicted the ‘Whirlwind’. “He’s in the right frame of mind. He won the Masters last year and put to bed the mental problems after he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Masters a few years ago, when he found the pressure of the big occasion too much.
“He’s settled into a big house in Sheffield with his girlfriend living with him and he’s really come of age. He’s definitely my tip for the title.”
Ding is being backed at odds of 12-1 by the tournament sponsor to win this year’s title.
Six-time Crucible finalist White, who has played the game long enough to realise how good a player Ding is, believes the youngster’s growing experience could be his asset this year as millions of fans again tune in to watch him compete for the title.
A staggering 100 million people in China tuned in to watch Ding compete in last year’s tournament, when he went out in the semi-final.
“Ding’s won two UK Championship titles and the Masters, so that’s the two biggest tournaments outside the World Championship,” added White.
“He’s a quality all-round player. He’s a superstar in China. He’s been in great form this season, he’s got a great chance of winning this one.”
On Monday White accompanied Steve Davis, the six-time world champion, and Barry Hearn, the World Snooker chairman, at the live first round draw at the TalkSport radio studios in Waterloo.
And the ‘Whirlwind’ picked out Ronnie O’Sullivan’s first round draw with Peter Ebdon as the pick of the round.
Triple world champion O’Sullivan and 2002 Crucible champion Ebdon meet in a repeat of their memorable 2005 quarter-final clash where the ‘Rocket’ capitulated after Ebdon him ground him down with his slower playing style.