Snooker: Title-winning Ding targets Crucible glory

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SHEFFIELD-based cueman Ding Junhui claimed the sixth ranking title of his career after staging a stunning fightback against Neil Robertson in the final of the Dafabet Players Tour Championship Grand Finals in Galway.

Left-handed potter Robertson, the World No 3, raced into a three-frame lead at the Bailey Allen Hall following breaks of 88, 80 and 72.

But former UK and Masters champion Ding, who scored a maximum 147 in his quarter-finals triumph over Northern Irishman Mark Allen, reeled off four frames in a row to secure his first trophy since the Welsh Open more than 12 months ago.

Chinese ace Ding, who hit eight centuries in the tournament, wrapped up the £100,000 first prize after a 98 clearance in the final-frame decider.

“I have played well all week; It was very tough because I had to win four matches in the last frame,” said Ding, who cruised into the final after thumping Kurt Maflin 4-0. “I have taken my chances, made big breaks and fought back in matches. I have more experience now and I know I can win close matches with just one chance.

“It’s all about thinking, and keeping my concentration. I have been working hard all year. I might have a few tournaments when I don’t play well and have less energy, but I know I can come back strong.”

It is just over a month before the World Championships get underway at the Crucible in Sheffield and Ding sees no reason why he can’t challenge for the sport’s top prize.

“I feel confident,” said Ding, who turns 26 next month. “I think I can win more titles if I can keep this form. I will keep practising. I am enjoying matches now and making big breaks.”