Masters 2011: Cope Books Ding Semi Date

Mark King may have produced the performance of the first round to see off defending champion Mark Selby but it was to be a very different story tonight as Jamie Cope restricted him to just one frame. Ding Junhui meanwhile looked excellent earlier on against Scotland’s Graeme Dott…

The first match of the afternoon saw Graeme Dott’s bid for a first Masters title come to a premature end following an eye-catching display from 2007 finalist Ding Junhui.

Just as Graeme himself did during his opening match against John Higgins, Ding Junhui started this afternoon in fabulous form, breaks of 124 and 108 giving him a 2-0 lead before Dott got himself on the scoreboard by taking a scrappy third. Ding was not to be deterred though, a further break of 124 putting him 3-1 up at the interval, a position from which he never really looked back.

Coming into this tournament somewhat under the radar, perhaps this is something that has been to Ding’s advantage as many of the other big names have tumbled out of the event already. I get the feeling that the two-time UK champion is not fancied here on the back of that infamous final defeat to Ronnie O’Sullivan back in 2007, but as vociferous as the local crowd can still be, without O’Sullivan standing between him and the title, it is hard to imagine the fans turning against him or becoming anywhere near as vocal as four years ago.

Next up though will be the man who defeated him earlier on this season in the Shanghai Masters, Jamie Cope. Up against Mark King he came into this match as second favourite, particularly given his below-par performance yesterday against former world champion Shaun Murphy.

Tonight however Jamie was much-improved, whilst Mark was a shadow of the player who ousted Selby and was according to BBC commentator Ken Doherty, struggling with the effects of the flu somewhat. His fortunes were summed up in the first frame when he played probably the worst shot you will see all week on the final blue, leaving it on for Jamie to pot and take the opening frame.

A break of 102 threatened briefly to turn the match around but Jamie soon finished the job and took the last two frames to book that clash with Ding. Could he become the first debutant to win the Masters title since Mark Selby back in 2008, another year when the seeds tumbled?