Saturday, 16 February 2013

Ding sets pace into final four

Ding Junhui has proved what all of us already know this week in the Welsh Open.

When he's playing well, he's unbelievably good. His break-building is neat and tidy, his cue ball control is arguably as good as anyone and he finds a way of playing with effortless class.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Ding has progressed into the final four in Newport this weekend showing glimpses of his best and is being widely tipped to retain the title he won here a year ago.

In fact, victory would help Ding defend the trophy just as John Higgins did in 2011.

When Ding plays this well, it always evokes memories of his sensational breakthrough and reiterates why he was dubbed almost a certain future world champion. Perhaps his time of form could be perfect for the Crucible this year? 

The Chinese star may be playing some excellent snooker this week but there is still plenty of work to be done after all four of yesterday's favourites in the quarter-finals made it through to the best-of-11-frame matches.

Next on Ding's hitlist is Stuart Bingham. He will need to improve substantially on the performance he put in to beat Ken Doherty 5-3 but has the confidence of beating Ding in their last three meetings.

Ding has form on his side and usually gets stronger and stronger when he wins events.

In the other semi-final, Judd Trump faces Stephen Maguire.

Trump has been encouragingly playing himself into form this week. He survived a scare against Dominic Dale, beat Andrew Higginson comfortably and knocked out Pankaj Advani 5-2 in the last round.

The ability to play yourself into a tournament is an asset all the great snooker champions have possessed, but something we haven't seen too much of yet from Judd.

He has been on a barren run of form since winning the International Championship in November. His run here will take him back to world number one and lifting the trophy would be a perfect reply to his long list of critics, on and off the table.

Nothing fuels confidence like winning.

Maguire will fancy his chances though. Matches against Judd tend to be open. That suits the Scot down to the ground as he sometimes loses his way when matches become scrappy.

He's played well in patches this week. He was excellent from 2-1 down against Matthew Stevens to beat him 4-2 and was like a steam train out of the blocks versus Alan McManus yesterday, converting his 3-0 lead to a 5-3 win.

It's great to be able to watch snooker on the BBC.

Settle down and enjoy the action.

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