Ding Junhui put an end to Ronnie’s hopes for a 8th UK Championship title, a possible 3th in a row, and a 37th ranking title as he beat him in the last 16 round. All four top seeds have now left the tournament.
It was a very high quality match:
Ding was the best player today and totally deserved the win. He started very strongly by winning the first three frames, denying Ronnie a single point! At that point, I have to admit, I was fearing that Ronnie would suffer the same kind of complete drubbing that Neil Robertson suffered yesterday at the hands of Yan Bingtao. Ronnie however managed to punish a rare mistake by Ding to go to the interval “only” 3-1 down. Ding won the first after the MSI and things looked very dire for Ronnie. But he did respond well, and managed to get back to 4-4 with two centuries. Ding didn’t surrender – as he had done only too often in the recent years – he hit back, and fully exploited the most obvious weakness in Ronnie’s game currently: his long potting.
Ronnie stuck to his game plan, attack, and took a few very risky shots. He got a fair share of them but he last one – a very tricky pink in the middle pocket that he missed – proved to be his last. After the match, Ronnie was very gracious and smiling. He likes Ding and has a lot of respect for him.
For the neutral it was an excellent match, and, as a snooker fan, I’m very happy to see Ding playing so well again, enjoying his snooker and smiling. He’s a beautiful player. I wouldn’t mind if he won the title come Sunday.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten at the Betway UK Championship for the first time since 2016 as he lost 6-4 in a high quality match against Ding Junhui in the last 16.
O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy seven times and was aiming for a third successive crown, but was second best today against an inspired Ding in York. The result means that the top four players in the world – O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson – have been knocked out before the quarter-finals.
Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, goes through to the last eight to face Liang Wenbo in a Chinese derby. World number 16 Ding has had a disappointing run of form having not win a ranking title for over two years, but on today’s evidence looks to have regained his scoring prowess.
Breaks of 82, 51 and 110 put Ding 3-0 ahead before O’Sullivan pulled one back with a run of 78. Ding won the fifth but didn’t pot a ball in the next three frames as O’Sullivan fired 77, 107 and 124 to level at 4-4.
In frame nine, Ding led 60-0 when he missed a red to a top corner, but O’Sullivan’s reply ended at 16 when he missed a red himself, allowing his opponent to regain the lead. Ding made 45 in the tenth before missing a red to centre, but he soon got back in and added 37 for victory.
“I played well, about 90% of my best,” said 32-year-old Ding. “Ronnie didn’t pot many long balls so he left me chances. I knew I had to start well because he can switch it on at any time, score heavily and win frames. I played good safety. Hopefully I can remember this feeling and play like this in every match.
“I didn’t play many tournaments earlier in the season so I needed ranking points and that’s when the pressure comes. Everyone is looking at me expecting me to win.”
Ding’s mother died in 2017 so he has deep sympathy with Liang, who suffered the same misfortune last week. “He’s got a tough time now,” said Ding. “He is very brave to keep playing and winning. We all love to see him playing well again.
“I know how he feels. (When it happened to me) my mind was here but my heart was back home. I think he’s the same. I’m sure he just wants to win matches for his mum.”
O’Sullivan, who turns 44 today, said: “I was happy to win four frames because that could have been a mauling. I had a couple of chances from 4-4 but I didn’t take them. I missed a few balls at vital times. Ding played a great match and deserved to win. He could win this but there are still so many good players.”
O’Sullivan will be back in action next week at the Scottish Open in Glasgow.
Here is the match as well as both players interviews with BBC at the end of it:
Big thanks to Tai Chengzhe for those very nice pictures