Brilliant Ding Denies Robertson In Galway

Trailing Australia’s Neil Robertson 3-0 in the final of the 2013 PTC Grand Finals this evening, few would have fancied Ding Junhui to come back and take the title, but that is exactly what happened as he reeled off four frames in a row in Galway to claim his first full-ranking event title since the 2012 Welsh Open…

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In front of a terrific crowd at the Bailey Allen Hall in Galway, it was Ding Junhui who fashioned the first chance, making a break of 41 before playing safe into the baulk area. Opponent Neil Robertson however would only need one chance, compiling a brilliant clearance of 88 to take the opener, highlighted by an excellent shot to bring the final safe red into play from just below the right-centre pocket.

This seemed to give the Australian the momentum, a break of 58 in the next helping him to double his lead, before he stole the third with a clearance of 60 to the pink, to leave himself one away from the title.

Despite the scoreline, Ding had missed little himself and dug deep to get himself back into the final, a magnificent total clearance of 130 helping him back to 2-3, before an excellent pot on the brown in the next all but ensured that the match would go to a decider.

With Robertson having survived a similar fight-back earlier in the day from Tom Ford in the semi-finals to edge through in a decider, Ding could certainly not take the match for granted, but as it happened, he was to finish in style with another big break, this time of 98, a number that matches his pot success percentage for the final, an astonishing figure after seven frames of snooker.

As he fell 3-0 behind, the thought crossed my mind that Ding is not a player which you would associate with comebacks, perhaps why he was so animated at the end of the final, this victory obviously meant a lot to the world number nine.

Every credit to Ding, much like at the 2011 Masters tournament, which he won so emphatically, he has looked to be the best player all week, as is immediately evident from looking at the century breaks list for the tournament, headed of course by his fifth career 147 break yesterday.

While it is the likes of Robertson and Mark Selby, Judd Trump and John Higgins who dominate the top positions in the ranking list, Ding at his best remains as good as any of them, certainly in terms of break-building he is as good as anyone, and is not to be discounted as the all-important World Championship approaches.

As for Robertson, defeat in the final here in Galway for the second year in succession and one that further prolongs his run without a full-ranking event title since the 2010 World Open. Given his all-around game, it is difficult to pinpoint a reason why, although it is has been noticeable on a few occasions now this season that he has struggled to see out matches, having made the stronger start. Something for another blog perhaps.

Turning to the tournament as a whole, as I noted the other day, the event has come in for criticism due to its scheduling, which has seen matches getting underway the wrong side of midnight, not ideal for both television viewers and those attending the venue in person.

Indeed I was unable to watch the conclusion of the matches involving Mark Selby and Jack Lisowski, and Ken Doherty and Kurt Maflin, due to having to be up for work the next day, while that between Northern Irish duo Mark Allen and Joe Swail could not even be televised due to the lateness of the hour.

Of course the solutions are not always as obvious as they might appear, many have suggested adding either an extra day, or a second table to the tournament, but each option would also bring its own problems. It is probably fair to say though that the format employed this week has not worked and I am sure that lessons will be learned going forwards from here.

In any case the event has still had a number of positives, in particular the performances of Ben Woollaston, Tom Ford and Kurt Maflin, highlighting just what can be achieved by those lower down the rankings in the Players Tour Championship events. With more and more events set to be staged under a 128 draw format, perhaps it is a taste of what is to come in snooker’s other full-ranking events next season.

Next stop, the Championship League tomorrow, before next week’s China Open which will confirm the seedings for the season-ending World Championship.