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Ding and Robertson Finally

The China Open final will be contested between the world’s top two players, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson.

Mark Selby might currently hold the official world no.2 ranking position but both the Australian and Chinese shooters are strides ahead of the rest in the provisional money rankings list which will come into operation upon the conclusion of this season.

What it ensures is that there will be a thrilling climax to the last ranking event before the World Championship gets under way in a fortnight.

These two players will be hoping to go a long way in Sheffield with Robertson seeking to regain the crown he lifted in 2010 and Ding searching for his maiden success.

However, before then they will do battle in Beijing as two of the campaign’s best three players – along with Ronnie O’Sullivan – meet each other in a final for the first time this year.

That stat is rather odd, given the fact that at least one of them has appeared in the final in eight of the 10 ranking finals prior to the China Open this week.

Now, they finally meet each other and a victory for either could go a long way in determining who finishes the campaign as the world no.1.

Ding reached his sixth final of the campaign with a 6-0 destruction of Mike Dunn, a player featuring in his first ever semi-final at the age of 42.

Dunn impressed on his way to the last four, surprising Selby in the previous round, but had little left to offer and Ding controlled the contest for a comfortable conquest.

The home favourite now has a second opportunity to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of five rankers in a single season having failed to achieve it in the Welsh Open in February.

That day he was up against a formidable O’Sullivan and, even though Ding knows his challenge will be mightily difficult on Sunday, the 26 year-old will probably be thankful that it isn’t the ‘Rocket’ he’s facing on the other side of the table.

Ding once struggled under the conditions of playing in front of his legion of fans but victory in the Shanghai Masters at the outset of this campaign, quickly followed by another in China at the International Open, has lifted a considerable weight of pressure off his shoulders.

Despite a brief setback at the Players Championship Grand Final last week, where he surrendered a 3-0 lead to Ben Woollaston and bowed out early on, Ding’s temperament has been a significant contrast to the petulant behaviour of his younger days.

Robertson, on the other hand, has always boasted an almost perfect attitude toward the game.

The 32 year-old has been consistently at the top of the sport for seven or eight years now and the fact he is reaching his fourth ranking event final of the campaign speaks for itself.

Robertson may not have been in the headlines as much as Ronnie or Ding but he has continued to let his snooker do the talking.

His quest to reach the century of tons milestone has hit a standstill this week, so far failing to add to his tally of 92, but that wont matter to him too much should he become the first player since O’Sullivan in 2000 to defend the trophy.

The UK champion hasn’t been anywhere near his best this week, not helped by a niggling virus that left him visibly out of breath following a tough 5-4 victory over Anthony Hamilton early on, but he has scrapped his way through each round and ended up with a relatively easy 6-2 win over Ali Carter in his semi-final clash.

Tomorrow’s encounter will be the third time the pair have met each other in a big final.

In 2009, Robertson beat Ding 9-4 to win the Grand Prix while last season Ding spectacularly came from three frames behind to win the Players Tour Championship Grand Final in Galway 4-3.

On home soil and with history beckoning, I think Ding has the slight advantage, but either way it promises to be a fascinating affair.

Click Here for the China Open draw.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.