Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ding faces Ronnie in Masters opener

When the the curtain raises on the first Masters to be held at Alexandra Palace in January, we'll be kicking off with a corker of a tie.

Defending champion Ding Junhui faces four-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan in a re-match of one of the most iconic snooker matches of the past decade.

When the two met at Wembley in the 2007 Masters final, Ronnie glided to comfortable 10-3 win. This triumph was exactly what the London crowd wanted but it was to be a rude awakening for Ding, snooker's Chinese prodigy.

O'Sullivan made seven breaks over 90 in the match , including five centuries in a performance that will go down as one of his greatest in a final.

But then just 20-years-old, Ding took defeat like a dagger to the heart.

Slumped in his chair for most of the match, he struggled to cope in conditions where every fan in the arena was behind Ronnie. His confidence was shot and he played not a fraction near his best.

Already a China Open and UK Championship winner, Ding's emergence was already well on the way but this heavy defeat marked a moment where his temperament would begin to be called in to question.

Having already enjoyed success in his career, it was easy to forget how young Ding still was he faced O'Sullivan playing somewhere near his best.

Everyone will remember how Ronnie honourably consoled him at the end of the match, but it was a sad sight to see such a young talent ripped to shreds and looking so lost and bewildered in an environment he so obviously belonged.

A lot has changed since then. More recently Ding has proved he can play under pressure and on the biggest stages. He's moved as high as number four in the world rankings, won another UK title and reached the semi-finals at the Crucible as well as other rankings titles.

As defending champion, it shows he far he has come from that he's arguably favourite for this match versus Ronnie. You can never write Ronnie off, especially in front of his home London crowd. But it promises to be a tight one.

Ding's 10-4 win against Marco Fu in last year's all-Asian Masters final brought an end to life of the tournament at Wembley, as it moves to its new home, nicknamed Ally Pally.

Although the invitational event remains in London, the move means it will be played at even bigger arena.

With the entire top 16 battling it out for one of the most prestigious titles in the sport, there was never going to be a bad draw, but in fact, it's a stunner.

Full first round draw:

Ding Junhui v Ronnie O'Sullivan
Judd Trump v Stuart Bingham
Neil Robertson v Mark Allen
Mark Williams v Stephen Maguire
Mark Selby v Stephen Lee
Shaun Murphy v Martin Gould
Ali Carter v Graeme Dott
John Higgins v Matthew Stevens

1 comment:

  1. Well, I'we watched the footage of this match again recently and frankly Ding wasn't playing badly. He was even playing extremely well for at least 2/3 of the match. It is true that some in the crowd were hostile but there were a minority. Ding's good shots were appreciated and applauded.
    This is a personal view but for me the crowd wasn't the main factor for Ding's collapse.
    Actually Ding had beaten Ronnie a few months earlier in the final of the NIT. He had played extremely well to reach the Masters final. Ronnie on the contrary had struggled against Doherty and his match with Maguire had been terrible from both. Very uncharacteristically Ding, usually shy, had been boasting at his previous post-match, "warning" his opponent that he could play even better than he had to reach that stage. And then, the next day he was trashed, with a pot success well over 90% and still utterly trashed. It was a blow to his confidence but even more so to his pride. The humiliation was made all the worse because of the previous boasting and "cracking" in public really was the final blow.