Ding Reigns in Shanghai

Ding Junhui has won his seventh ranking event title after overcoming compatriot Xiao Guodong 10-6 in the final of the Shanghai Masters.

In what was the first all-Chinese ranking event final, Ding was almost always in command despite a spirited effort from his inexperienced opponent, and was never behind for the duration of the encounter.

The title comes as Ding’s first ranking victory on home soil since he famously burst onto the scene as a spotty teenager at the China Open in 2005.

Since then, the 26 year-old has largely struggled in his local events, both suffering from inconsistency and the weight of pressure his legion of fans placed on his shoulders.

But this week Ding has looked composed throughout, patient in his approach on the table and was rarely truly troubled other than in his second round clash with Shaun Murphy that went the distance.

In today’s final, he quickly established a two frame cushion but Xiao, contesting his maiden final, fought well to battle back to 3-3.

The 24 year-old was unable to stay with his illustrious countryman, though, and found himself three adrift at the conclusion of the opening session at 6-3.

He was able to win the first frame in the evening but Ding raced away to a 9-4 advantage at the final mid-session interval.

Showing none up until this point, nerves finally began to tell on Ding as the winning post approached, which briefly allowed Xiao in with opportunities to reduce the arrears.

He did so, winning two frames on the trot to instill at least a little bit of doubt into the expected end result and when he got in first in the 16th frame it looked as though things could be about to get more interesting.

However, he broke down on 45 and Ding, digging deep, potted two long reds in quick succession to gain a foothold in the frame and eventually cleared with a superb 71 to capture the trophy.

Other breaks of 83, 66, 126, 58, 58, 78 and 81 paid testament to how solidly Ding played the entire final but credit must also go to Xiao who battled well in his debut appearance at this stage of a big tournament.

The outcome will be a popular one across all of China with Ding being not only the star of snooker, but one of the major stars in all of sport within the vast country.

Who knows what confidence Ding will be able to take from this success.

At such a young age, he has achieved so much in the game – already being among some of the most successful players ever.

Critics have questioned his temperament under pressure as well as his ability to perform when it matters at the Crucible, the biggest stage of them all, but he has plenty of time to master that.

This triumph in his own backyard may be exactly the catalyst he needs to kickstart his campaign for more sustained success.

Only time will tell on that front, but for right now Ding Junhui reigns supreme in Shanghai – something he will undoubtedly be incredibly proud about.

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