Defeat for Ding Junhui in the UK Championship on Sunday guarantees that the Chinese star will plummet down the world rankings next week.
The 34 year-old will definitely lose his top 16 membership after a 6-3 defeat to Sam Craigie in the second round at the Barbican Centre.
Tenth seed Ding had been defending the ranking points he earned for his victory in the 2019 UK Championship, with those set to be deducted from his tally upon the conclusion of this year’s edition in York.
The former world number one’s demise will come as a surprise to few who follow the sport regularly, with the 14-time ranking event winner immersed in a constant battle for form and self-confidence for what seems like an age.
Ding missed the early part of this season in order to take an extended break away from the game and spend time with his family in China, so he did miss a couple of notable events that cost him opportunities to score ranking points.
However, aside from that it has been a long time since he has featured regularly at the business end of tournaments, and there are many who now wonder if his glory days are truly behind him.
Ding is set to crash outside the top 25 on the official two-year standings, and the provisional end-of-season list makes for even sorrier reading as it currently has him in a battle to remain inside the top 32.
With failure to qualify for the World Grand Prix next month likely and having already been dumped out of the German Masters, he will find it difficult to make an immediate return to the higher echelons.
The timing is particularly bad as it coincides with the cut-off point for qualification to the Masters, meaning 2011 champion Ding will miss out on an invitation to the Alexandra Palace in January.
This, of course, isn’t the first time that Ding has surrendered his place among the top 16 in the world rankings – famously responding to his brief demise more than five years ago in style when he qualified for the 2016 World Championship and went all the way to the final.
That he has continuously failed to land the sport’s blue-riband title in Sheffield has long been a cause for anguish and the one obvious missing element to what has been an illustrious career overall.
At 34, Ding somewhat oddly remains one of the younger competitors toward the top of the game, which means he still has plenty of time to rediscover his peak performance levels.
There’ll be many fans out there who’ll be desperately hoping he can do just that.
Featured photo credit: WST