I’m the player to fear, says Ding Junhui after roaring to the Crucible

Ding Junhui in action
Ding Junhui in action
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Ding Junhui believes he is the player everyone will want to avoid in the Betfred World Championship first round after avoiding a pre-Crucible banana skin.

China’s former world number one has slipped down the rankings to 17th, which meant he had to play qualifiers for the first time in nine years.

But he dropped only seven frames in racing through three best-of-19-frame preliminary rounds, toppling 1995 Crucible runner-up Nigel Bond 10-2 on Wednesday to secure his place in the 32-man main draw.

He will learn his opponent on Thursday morning, with any of the top 16 able to draw Ding. The 29-year-old won a record-equalling five major ranking tournaments just two seasons ago, and will be bidding to become the first qualifier since Shaun Murphy in 2005 to land the world title.

“They don’t want to play me. It doesn’t matter who I play,” Ding said.

“I was facing pressure to get back to the Crucible because I didn’t want to miss the chance to play at the World Championship.”

Ding has linked up with 1979 world champion Terry Griffiths to put his game and focus in order, crediting the Welshman with recently adjusting the way he approaches each match.

“Bad things and good things are always happening,” Ding said.

“From last season, before I started work with Terry Griffiths, I had lost a lot of confidence. I lacked confidence to play any tournament. After Terry told me how to work on my mind, I started playing well and thinking well, and that’s been the difference.

“I was upset a lot. After winning five ranking tournaments and losing to lower-ranking players... there’s nobody guaranteed to win but I think I’m favourite to win and that’s what I need to learn. Terry’s told me to change my thinking because you’re not guaranteed to beat anybody.”

Veteran Scot Alan McManus joined Ding in securing a shot at one of the world’s top 16 at snooker’s most famous venue. McManus, 45, beat English potter Jimmy Robertson 10-2.