Ding Junhui is into his first World Championship final after defeating Alan McManus 17-11 in the last four in Sheffield.
The Chinese superstar compiled an incredible seven centuries – a record in a Crucible match – as he held off a gutsy challenge from the Scottish 45 year-old.
Resuming 14-10 going into the final session on Saturday, Ding looked understandably nervous as he entered the arena and he was lucky to win a nervy opening frame, capitalising on some misfortune from McManus when he looked set to reduce the gap.
A marathon 26th frame ensued, as a lengthy tactical battle with just the pink and black remaining eventually ended courtesy of a long pot from McManus to stay in the hunt at 15-11 down.
Yet, Ding composed himself again to knock in the record-breaking ton to move to within one frame of victory and, after a few bites at the cherry, the 29 year-old accumulated the crucial points he needed to book his maiden final berth.
It was a typically tense ending to a semi-final encounter at the Crucible but the match will be remembered for years to come for the attacking approach embraced by both players throughout the entertaining contest.
It’s the end of a wonderful journey for McManus which saw the Glaswegian book a third semi-final appearance, 23 years after his last jaunt to the penultimate round.
But he’ll take plenty of fond memories away with him as he produced his best snooker for more than two decades on the biggest stage of them all.
That stage is now set for Ding to finally make his bow in a world final for the first time in his career.
When he burst onto the scene as an 18 year-old winning his home China Open in 2005 – adding the UK title in style only months later – everyone expected a period of domination from the sensation.
While he has been consistently near the higher echelons since then – especially during the 2013/14 campaign when he won five ranking events in a single season – Ding has often struggled with the pressure that has come with competing in the sport’s blue riband event in Sheffield.
However, having to endure the unusual task of qualifying for this year’s edition has seemed to provide him with the confidence injection necessary to go on a concerted run.
Ding has appeared to handle the expectation much more calmly and by beating McManus he has become the first Asian to book his place in the World Championship final.
Of course, there could be a second from the continent joining Ding later on as Hong Kong’s Marco Fu remains locked in battle with 2014 champion Mark Selby.
It’ll take a big effort from either of those two to deny Ding his first world title displaying this level of form, though.
How many will be watching in China?
Categories: Snooker News