Snooker: Sheffield-based Chinese star Ding Junhui dreaming of glamour semi-final... against Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ding Junhui may have just reached the Betfred World Snooker Championship second round but he is already dreaming of a glamour semi-final with Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Sheffield’s Ding was in fine form against fellow Chinese potter Xiao Guodong in the first round, storming from 2-0 down to register an impressive 10-3 win.
But the 31-year-old, who is yet to win at the Crucible Theatre, is already looking ahead to a potential last four contest with O’Sullivan – the game’s standout player this year and the heavy favourite to win a sixth world title.
“I want to play Ronnie. I really do. I want to improve myself and he is the hardest to beat so I want to play him,” he said.
“It is always a good test and I want to win every match. It is not always impossible but I want to increase my win percentage and beat everyone else.”
Before he gets there, he first must overcome a tricky quarter of the draw which includes former runner-up Barry Hawkins and Scotland’s Anthony McGill.
McGill faces Welshman Ryan Day in his first-round match and gets underway on Wednesday, with the prize a second-round contest with Ding.
“I will watch and see how it is going,” Ding admitted. “But for me, I just need to play like that and it will be really good.
“I am confident. I have played well but I don’t worry about my form in my games. I am just looking forward and want to get another chance.
“I was having a laugh out there but maybe I was just leading by too many frames. I love to smile, it takes the pressure away. I just need to be nice on myself and forgive the bad shots.
“If I do that, then I will be dangerous in every match.”
As Xiao can testify, he was certainly dangerous in this one. With tens of millions tuning in to the all-Chinese affair back home, both were eager to impress.
Xiao, the world number 25, had only ever won match at the Crucible Theatre before but he started like he owned the place with breaks of 82 and 54 giving him a 2-0 lead.
Ding was noticeably rusty, missing balls he would normally make in his sleep, but as soon as he got on the board in frame three his confidence noticeably grew.
A composed century of 124 gave him the lead and only a steady 57 from Xiao prevented Ding from winning every other frame in the session.
And then breaks of 72, 61, 51, 78 and 98 carried him over the line and into the second round for the sixth successive year.
“He put me under a lot of pressure and went for it with his shots. But I got back in it and made some breaks, which helped me get over the line,” Ding added.
Watch the snooker World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.