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Ding falls behind in gruelling World Championship final

The 29-year-old is bidding to become the first Asian to win the world title.

Ding Junhui shows his frustration during the final against Mark Selby on day sixteen of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible Theatre.
Ding Junhui shows his frustration during the final against Mark Selby on day sixteen of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible Theatre.
Image: Nick Potts

DING JUNHUI’S BID to become the first Asian to win the world title was on a knife-edge Sunday when he trailed former champion Mark Selby 10-7 in the best-of-35 frame championship match.

The opening day of the two-day final at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre saw 29-year-old Ding slip 6-0 down at one stage before he pulled back to 8-7 courtesy of a marathon 66-minute 15th frame.

But that gruelling duel only served to inspire 2014 champion Selby who won the next two frames to restore the Leicester player’s dominance and put himself in a position to lift the world title on Monday, the same day that his hometown football team could be crowned Premier League champions.

“There were two warriors out there today, when you require one or two snookers you’ve got to go for them, such is the standard of safety play, it’s astonishing. Ding looked as fresh as anything,” former six-time world champion Steve Davis told the BBC.

Ding had fallen 6-2 down in the first session but never gave up hope, no doubt inspired by memories of Dennis Taylor famously winning the world title in 1985 from 8-0 behind against Steve Davis, while Ronnie O’Sullivan trailed Graeme Dott 5-0 in 2004 before winning 18-8.

For Ding’s many millions of supporters watching at home late at night in China, there must have been a feeling of letdown as their idol struggled so badly at the start.

Selby swept 4-0 in front at the mid-session interval with breaks of 91, 76 and 120.

In the one frame where he did not make a major score he arguably inflicted a greater blow on Ding, taking it from a position where he needed a snooker and a clearance.

A baffling attempt to cut in the green by Ding, when it looked an impossible shot, was the Chinese player’s downfall.

Ding showed no immediate response after an interval pep talk from 1979 world champion Terry Griffiths.

Griffiths has worked with Ding on his mental approach and the Chinese former world number one, who had to qualify for the tournament after falling out of the top 16, had been playing with a calmer demeanour over the past fortnight

Selby remained on top, pushing out his lead to 6-0 and then looking for all the world to be heading seven clear, only to jam the blue around the jaws of the yellow pocket.

Ding knocked it in and finally had a frame on the board.

His second swiftly followed thanks to breaks of 31, 35 and 41 and Ding had a foothold in the match at last.

© AFP 2016

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