Sheffield-based cueman Ding Junhui is capable of winning the 2013 World Snooker Championship - as long as he keeps his emotions in check.
That is the verdict of seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry, who will be working as a pundit for the BBC for the 17-day tournament, starting on Saturday April 20.
In six visits to the Crucible, Ding has never gone beyond the semi-finals. In fact, it was Hendry who defeated the 26-year-old at the second round stage of the event in 2008 and 2009.
But Ding is in good form, having won the Players Tour Championship Grand Finals in Galway last month.
Although Ronnie O’Sullivan will defend his world crown after ending a 10-month self-imposed exile, Hendry is tipping Ding to land the sport’s biggest prize.
“If Ronnie plays to his potential, he is the favourite, but taking him away, my tip would be Ding,” Hendry told The Star. “I think over the last three to four years he has got closer and closer to the big one. There has always been a question mark over Ding’s temperament. Sometimes I look at him and I think he’s not in a good place in his chair or not in control of his emotions. He gets really disappointed sometimes and then lets it affect his game. If he can keep himself under control, Ding has the game to beat anyone.”
Six-time winner Steve Davis also feels Ding, eliminated in the first round of the China Open by Barry Hawkins last week, has the ability to thrive in the Crucible cauldron.
“I don’t know how Ding can improve,” said Davis, who is competing in the World Championship qualifiers, held at the EIS, this week. “He is brilliant. As long as he has done the hard work and is mentally prepared for what’s ahead going into the event, then there is no reason why he can’t do well.”
Hendry and Davis are part of the Snooker Legends Tour, which cues off in Sheffield at the Crucible next Thursday, 7pm. The duo will joins forces to take on Jimmy White and Dennis Taylor in a series of doubles and singles matches. The exhibition evening will be refereed by Michaela Tabb and John Virgo.
For more information, call 0114 249 6000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk