Ding Junhui is back in the winner’s enclosure after being crowned the Haining Open champion in his homeland China.
The 28 year-old has endured a mostly torrid time of it for the last 18 or so months since his last tournament triumph came at the Yixing Open in June, 2014.
At that time, the Chinese Sensation was at the peak of his powers, beginning a new campaign as he had performed for much of the previous 2013/14 outing when he collected five ranking event trophies.
It all went dramatically downhill from there, though, as results in the big events began to go the competition’s way and Ding’s confidence duly took a battering.
A run to the World Championship quarter-final in April somewhat salvaged a desperate last season but, somewhat surprisingly, Ding decided against entering the early events in this campaign in any attempt to immediately capitalise on regaining his form.
It wasn’t until the Shanghai Masters that we properly got a good glimpse of the two-time UK champion with a narrow defeat to Kyren Wilson, who went on to capture glory in September, ending his run again at the last eight stage.
So despite coming into the Haining Open as one of the favourites in the absence of fellow elite stars such as Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy, it was difficult to predict what impact Ding would have in Haining City.
Seven victories later and we have our answer.
Ding fought hard toward the end of the week, requiring three deciding frame finishes to help his cause of obtaining some new silverware.
Indeed, in the final Ding came from 3-1 down to prevail against Ricky Walden with successive breaks of 89, 53 and 74.
Many critics will point to the fact that Ding’s closest rivals didn’t even enter but that is largely irrelevant.
The former Masters champion still had to beat five hardened pros, including a three-time ranking event winner in the final, which will undoubtedly give a much-needed boost to his weakened confidence and bruised ego.
He will surely head to the International Championship, which starts on Sunday, with renewed energy and belief in himself to get the job done.
Also in the back of his mind will be the knowledge that he provisionally takes the final Champion of Champions invitation, although that is still subject to who ends up being crowned victorious in Daqing next week.
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