UK Championship final
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UK Championship final: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Ding Junhui

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui will face off in a barnstorming UK Championship final on Sunday at the Barbican Centre in York.

The pair will attempt to add to their impressive tallies in the tournament, with Ding bidding for a fourth crown and O’Sullivan on course for a record-extending eighth.

A comprehensive 6-2 victory over Hossein Vafaei on Saturday afternoon helped the Rocket through to the title decider.

O’Sullivan produced a solid performance but also took advantage of a nervy display from the Iranian, who squandered numerous chances in the second half of the affair.

Ding had a much tougher outing but ultimately prevailed from an entertaining encounter against Judd Trump with a 6-4 scoreline.

A runner-up last year when he let slip a 6-1 lead over Mark Allen in the final, the 36 year-old punched the air as he completed a statement victory over the season’s in-form competitor.

This UK Championship final, then, pits arguably the two most famous and popular names in the game against each other.

While O’Sullivan is revered all over the world, his opponent will have tens of millions of fans back home in China cheering for his overdue return to the winner’s circle.

Ding triumphed at the Six Red World Championship at the start of 2023 in Thailand.

But the former world number one hasn’t won a ranking event since his last success in the UK Championship back in 2019.

A victory would take Ding’s career tally of ranking titles to 15, announcing him as one of the sport’s leading forces again.

Glory for O’Sullivan, meanwhile, would bring his total to 40 – marking a first since he claimed his last world title at the Crucible Theatre in 2022.

Despite facing challenges from the likes of Trump, Luca Brecel, and Mark Allen this season, O’Sullivan remains the sport’s official world number one in the rankings list.

That fact won’t change this week regardless of the outcome in Sunday’s highly anticipated UK Championship final.

O’Sullivan turns 48 on Tuesday, and although he is perhaps slightly less consistent than his heyday, he shows few signs that his time at the very highest echelons are coming to an end.

The Englishman has lost only one of his previous eight UK title deciders – in 2016 when he was denied by Mark Selby.

The last time O’Sullivan encountered Ding in a ranking event was at this very tournament twelve months ago.

On that day, the latter inflicted a stunning 6-0 defeat on the then world champion.

Results like that from their head-to-head have been the exception rather than the norm, however.

O’Sullivan boasts a far superior record with 20 victories to Ding’s seven in all competitions.

This clash will represent their sixth with silverware on the line, and the scoreline on that count reads 4-1 in the Rocket’s favour.

Ding won the first of those as a teenager when he captured the Northern Ireland Trophy at O’Sullivan’s expense in 2006.

Not long after, though, O’Sullivan emerged triumphantly from their only previous meeting in a Triple Crown final at the 2007 Masters.

A humbling experience amid a raucous atmosphere in London left a tearful Ding with plenty of mental scars to overcome.

Since then, the best Ding has mustered in a final against O’Sullivan has been three frames.

It would be a surprise to see him perform that poorly on this occasion, but he certainly will enter the contest as the underdog.

Much has been made about Ding’s love affair with the UK Championship, but it’s worth remembering that the man on the other side of the table has the most titles of anyone in the competition’s history.

When O’Sullivan gets this close to putting his hands on the trophy, it’s hard to bet against him.


2023 UK Championship draw and results

Last 32 (bo11)

Mark Allen (1) 5-6 Ding Junhui
Tom Ford (16) 6-5 Noppon Saengkham
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Fan Zhengyi
Kyren Wilson (8) 5-6 Jamie Clarke

Mark Selby (5) 6-0 Mark Joyce
Barry Hawkins (12) 6-4 Ben Woollaston
Jack Lisowski (13) 4-6 Jamie Jones
Judd Trump (4) 6-1 Pang Junxu

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Anthony McGill
Robert Milkins (14) 6-5 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
John Higgins (11) 6-3 Joe O’Connor
Neil Robertson (6) 2-6 Zhou Yuelong

Shaun Murphy (7) 4-6 Hossein Vafaei
Ali Carter (10) 3-6 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-5 Elliot Slessor
Luca Brecel (2) 6-4 Yuan Sijun

Last 16 (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-3 Tom Ford (16)
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Jamie Clarke
Mark Selby (5) 6-5 Barry Hawkins (12)
Jamie Jones 0-6 Judd Trump (4)

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Robert Milkins (14)
John Higgins (11) 3-6 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-1 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-4 Luca Brecel (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-5 Mark Williams (9)
Mark Selby (5) 3-6 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-4 Zhang Anda (15)

Semi-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-4 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Hossein Vafaei

Final (bo19)

Ding Junhui 7-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (3)

Featured photo credit: WST

5 Comments

  1. Jay brannon

    It’s interesting you talk about O’Sullivan’s heyday as unlike Hendry and Steve Davis it’s hard to narrow it down to a particular period so easily! It wasn’t the 1990s but from about 2001 onwards he’s often the bookies favourite for most events. I do think it has been six years since I’ve witnessed a display from O’Sullivan that I’d rank as one of his ten finest.

    O’Sullivan appearing in a record extending 30th Triple Crown final and Ding his 8th.

    Recent meetings for Ding do bode well as he’s won their last two at the UK and a 2017 World Championship quarter-final. While Ding’s losses have generally been tight.

    Not only the two most popular cuemen but the finest exponents of cueball control I’ve ever seen.

    • Yeah, agreed about the heyday comment. I guess a better way of putting it is that he’s not quite as prolific as he once was. His longevity will probably end up being his greatest achievement of them all, though. If he wants to, he could be winning titles at 60, never mind 50.

  2. Jay Brannon

    What is the case now he’s never been a better competitor. Many peak performances during the 2000s but implosions were never far from the surface until he began sessions with Steve Peters.

    That last top 10 display was the 2017 English Open final.

    A 62nd ranking final for O’Sullivan. He’s lost six of his last eight. Ding in his 22nd.

    The longevity of his success is what has seen him overtake Hendry as the GOAT.

  3. Jay Brannon

    I should add Ding’s recent losses have been tight. As DC mentions, Ding has been hammered in finals by O’Sullivan.

  4. Daniel White

    This is a much more enticing final than O’Sullivan Vs Ding would have been years ago; in his earlier career Ding seemed to have an inability to play properly against O’Sullivan. Today I couldn’t try to guess the outcome. O’Sullivan has had non forced errors in every game that I’ve watched and Ding has grown with each victory. Brilliant match up.

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