Ding Junhui produced a scintillating comeback to overcome Neil Robertson and win the 2013 PTC Grand Finals in Galway.
The Chinese superstar takes home the winner’s cheque of 100,000 pounds, as well as 22,000 pounds for recording the fifth maximum break of his career in Saturday’s quarter-finals.
And the 25 year-old has certainly earned every penny this week in the west of Ireland as four of his five matches went the entire distance.
In the final, the former UK and Masters champion found himself 3-0 down within an hour as his Australian opponent made breaks of 88, 58 and 60 to edge nearer the title he lost to Stephen Lee at this stage twelve months ago.
However, Ding was not playing badly – far from it in fact – and an almost flawless set of four frames ensured the title was going to the Asian.
Runs of 52 and 70 guaranteed Ding avoided the dreaded whitewash – indeed, this is the first Grand Finals final that has not finished with a 4-0 scoreline – and a spectacular 130 total clearance in the next got him back to within one and in touching distance of parity.
A close sixth frame was decided with a succession of snookers from both players with the exchange finally being won by Ding and he wasted little time in the decider, coolly knocking in a 98 to claim the top prize and a return to the winners enclosure.
In truth, Robertson did very little wrong from his winning position and Ding’s remarkable 99% pot success rate tells its own story as to just how well he played.
The final was a classic, one in which a packed auditorium at the Bailey Allen Hall deserved as they provided the players with an electric atmosphere as the climax neared on St. Patrick’s Day.
Ding has the talent to do just about anything he wants to in this sport but at times his temperament and consistency have been left lacking.
Yet, while the latter is still a problem, his temperament is a far cry from the childlike temper tantrums he used to throw when things weren’t going his way in the past.
Ding, who beat Kurt Maflin 4-0 to reach the final, is a confident young man and appears a lot more content in himself and his English surroundings – the fact that he has clearly made an effort to learn the language better is also testament to this.
Similarly, the level of support that he receives continues to rise and not just in his homeland China, where is an idol.
He is gaining in popularity all over the world and, as I have said before, comparisons on many different levels can be made between him and Jimmy White.
The question that will be on many people’s lips now is whether or not Ding can do what the ‘Whirlwind’ so often fell just short of achieving – earn the status of being a world champion.
If he plays like he did this week in Sheffield he will be a very difficult player to compete with.
Indeed, there are only a few people who would have been able to live with that barrage of perfection.
Including his 147, Ding made eight century breaks this week and recorded five of the highest six tons on the leaderboard.
Of course it must be noted the seismic difference in formats between the PTC series and the World Championship.
But I think a lot of people would be happy to see Ding’s name on the Crucible trophy and it would be a mammoth moment for the sport in Asia, and obviously China in particular.
The pressure, as always, will be hugely weighted on his shoulders and whether he can deal with the expectation awaits to be seen.
For Robertson, the Melbourne man will have to be content with a second successive runners-up spot at NUIG.
The 31 year-old edged Tom Ford in another 4-3 thriller earlier on Sunday and can have little qualms with how the final score of his final ended up – he was beaten by the better man.
In any case, he too will be content with how he is playing and should be in a good frame of mind heading into the final two ranking events of the campaign.
All in all, it was another pretty successful tournament, although considerations will have to be made for next season in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the late post-midnight finishes that dominated the first few days.