Congratulations to Ding Junhui who has defeated reigning world champion John Higgins 10-8 to win the UK Championship for the second time…
For so long Ding Junhui had looked like a shadow of the player that had won this competition back in 2005 but as I sat in the arena watching him come back from the brink to defeat countryman Liang Wenbo earlier this year at the Crucible Theatre, it was apparent that he was on the way back. Though he bowed out to Stephen Hendry in the next round, his performance was much improved on that against the same player in 2008 and it was going to be very interesting to see how he started the new 2009/10 season. Were these performances a one-off or was Ding going to keep working hard and not give in as easily as he has done in the past?
Reaching the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters following a final in the Grand Prix, the answer appeared to be the latter and now following this triumph, his rehabilitation as one of snooker’s major contenders is surely complete.
It was an impressive victory too. Sure he did not play at his best and neither did Higgins, but his temperament looked strong and he played with a discipline not always associated with him. Having lost two frames in a row for the first time to trail 7-6 he could have perhaps wilted but it never looked like happening and impressively he more often than not had the upper hand in the safety exchanges – no mean feat against a player like Higgins.
John meanwhile was obviously not at his best. Whether this was down to his epic match with O’Sullivan last night only he will know, but the way he played he did well to hang on to Ding for as long as he did. Some of his breaks, the 67 in frame two and that century to close to 9-8 for example were outstanding and demonstrated that even when not at his best, he can still produce something special.
For Ding the victory means that he moves up to 6th in the latest provisional rankings, while he also tops the one-years with a huge total of 20180 points at this stage. If he can maintain this form then surely a place in the top four is not yet out of the question.
John though will have to settle for extending his lead at the top of the provisional list over Ronnie O’Sullivan to 7,705 points, a gap that will be very hard for the current number one to close between now and May.