Snooker: Relaxed Ding cruises into the second round of the World Championships

Ding Junhui during his match against Zhou Yuelong
Ding Junhui during his match against Zhou Yuelong
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Sheffield-based potter Ding Junhui compared his latest warm Crucible welcome to that which he gets in his home country of China as he reached the second round of the World Championships.

Ding is a hero figure in his home country and received rapturous applause from the Crucible crowd as he beat Zhou Yuelong 10-5 in the first round.

And last year’s runner-up looked in fine fettle in his opening match as he struck three centuries and six further 50+ breaks to book a place in the last 16.

Ding struck each of his tons in the first session which he finished 7-2 up, and he concluded a very professional job over his 19-year-old opponent with three half-century breaks.

“Thanks to the snooker fans, wherever they’re from, I very rarely play home games so thank you to Sheffield for the support, it is like what I feel in China which is great,” Ding said.

“Next year Zhou will be better and come back, for me it’s more enjoyable here, I learned a lot last year and got experience in here and I feel more comfortable.

“I hope I can have a good run here this season, this is the first game, last year I came through qualifying and the first game is always difficult and there’s a long way to go.”

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Ding, in his 11th appearance at the Crucible, will face either Liang Wenbo or Stuart Carrington with the pair locked at 6-6 in a marathon first round arm wrestle.

Qualifier Carrington had struck three centuries in a row to lead 4-2 but 13th-seed Liang fought back to lead 6-5 in a see-saw match.

Elsewhere, four-time Crucible champion John Higgins beat Martin Gould 10-6 in the morning session to book a last 16 match against Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen. The Scot held a commanding 7-2 lead overnight and though he lost the first two frames, he wrapped up victory with the help of an emphatic 127 break in frame 14.

“To win 10-6 against Martin is brilliant,” Higgins said. “I am very happy to get through.”

Pre tournament favourite Judd Trump was pegged back by Rory McLeod as the veteran came from 4-0 down to lead 5-4.

Though a huge underdog, McLeod possesses the kind of dogged game that can knock Trump out of his rhythm and so it proved after the interval, with the world number two perhaps not helped by a long and ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of a snooker to rescue the seventh frame. Their best of 19 first round match resumes this morning.