Ding contests Higgins in World Championship second round


Sheffield is set to host a thrilling second round match-up on day six of this year’s World Championship, with ‘the Chinese Sensation’ Ding Junhui taking on four-time Crucible king John Higgins.

World number three Ding (11/1 with Coral to win a deciding frame) came through a gruelling first round meeting with experienced Mark Davis, fighting back from 4-0 down after the opening session to eventually claim a 10-7 triumph, despite making a huge blunder during a potential maximum break.

Ding, an 11-time ranking event winner, had potted an impressive 13 reds with all blacks on his way towards becoming only the seventh ever player to make a Crucible 147, but incredibly the 28-year-old failed to realise his efforts and stunned up for the blue.

“I was just concentrating so hard I forgot that it was all blacks I had potted,” said Ding.

The ‘Star of the East’ has already made five competitive maximum clearances in his illustrious career so far, but a lack of concentration, or too much of it, caused him to miss out on his sixth and first ever at the World Championship.

“I had been 4-0 behind early on and doing everything to get back into the match, and already thinking about trying to win the next frame as well and get back to 5-5.

“In the end I realised after I played for the blue – but only because I could hear the crowd react and the referee and Mark started smiling. Then I checked the scoreboard.”

A World Championship crown is a major absence from Ding’s trophy cabinet, despite having become the only player form outside the British Isles to have won a UK Championship title in 2005 and 2009, having beaten his next second round opponent Higgins in the latter final.

“I feel I am enjoying the World Championships more this year, and I know it will be a tough match against John. We have played many times, and I beat him recently in Beijing.”

Experienced Scot Higgins, 6/4 to secure a second round victory, has lost out to his Chinese counterpart in their last three competitive meetings and holds an inferior head-to-head record, having won seven times to Ding’s nine triumphs.

Both prolific potters have collided in the UK final and at the quarter-final round of Masters in 2009, though their latest encounter will be the first on the World Championship stage, with the Scot prevailing in that previous clash at Alexandra Palace in London.

Elsewhere, reigning world champion Mark Selby will need a massive improvement from his first round win over Crucible newcomer Kurt Maflin, if he is to overcome clinical Scot Anthony McGill, who toppled fellow countryman Stephen Maguire in his opening outing.

Menacing potter McGill is 3/1 to stun the defending champion and continue the ‘Crucible curse’, having edged a Snooker Shootout victory last month, while ‘the Jester from Leicester’ is an 8/1 chance to record a 13-8 triumph.

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