2020 Northern Ireland Open – Ronnie beats Ding Junhui in the QF round

Ronnie is through to the semi-finals at the 2020 Northern Ireland Open after beating Ding Junhui by 5-2.  Here are the scores:


Looking at that, the impression might be that Ronnie had an easy victory. It certainly wasn’t the case. It was a very strange match actually, and one that was won/lost in the player’s head more than on the table.


Here is the report by WST:

O’Sullivan Sets Up Carter Clash

NIOPen2020ROS-6World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ding Junhui 5-2 to set up an intriguing semi-final with Ali Carter at the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open.

O’Sullivan, winner of a record 37 ranking titles, will compete in the semi-finals of a ranking event for the 78th time tomorrow.

It will be the first time the Rocket has faced Carter since their fiery World Championship encounter in 2018. On that occasion, the pair exchanged a shoulder barge and tense words, as Carter secured a 13-9 win.

Today’s victory for 44-year-old O’Sullivan extends his head-to-head advantage over China’s number one Ding to 15-4. Ding will now turn his attentions to the defence of his UK Championship title, which gets underway next week.

It was Ding who flew out of the blocks this evening. Asia’s top cueman fired in breaks of 121 and 87 to charge into an early 2-0 advantage.

However, at that point Ding started missing opportunities and O’Sullivan opportunistically capitalised. Runs of 59 and 58 saw him head into the mid-session interval level at 2-2.

When they returned he claimed a further three frames on the bounce, making runs of 70 and 79 in the process, to emerge a 5-2 victor.

Following the match O’Sullivan denied apologising to Carter in the aftermath of their 2018 World Championship clash, or to Mark Allen after they exchanged words in the arena at the recent Champion of Champions.

O’Sullivan said: “I didn’t apologise to Ali and I didn’t apologise to Mark Allen either. I just said, ‘look, let’s move on, let’s not hold any grudges’. It is what it is. I still feel I was right on both occasions. That apology they say I said, definitely wasn’t one. It was more like saying to move on. It doesn’t really matter. I will see you around tournaments and you will see me, we might as well say hello to each other.

At one point in this evening’s match I’d have been happy just to get a frame. He went off the boil and that allowed me to get back in the game. I just picked up bits and pieces, tried to stay solid and capitalise on any chances I got.

“You just have to win as many frames as you can and try not to lose frames. You have to keep your head down and not look for the winning line. I make it hard for myself. I missed a few balls early on and left him in. I don’t pot as well as I used to. I missed a few balls, but that is a natural thing as you get older.

And two more, by Europsport this time:

This one is a report on the match:


Ronnie O’Sullivan fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Ding Junhui on Friday night, winning 5-2 to move one step closer to another final showdown with Judd Trump at the Northern Ireland Open. Ding threatened the upset with breaks of 121 and 87 in the opening two frames, but O’Sullivan responded quickly to keep alive his hopes of avenging back-to-back final defeats at this competition.

Ronnie O’Sullivan fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Ding Junhui on Friday night, winning 5-2 to set up a semi-final meeting with Ali Carter at the Northern Ireland Open.

O’Sullivan is attempting to right the wrongs of the past two years, having been beaten 9-7 by Judd Trump in both the 2018 and 2019 finals.

We could be heading for a hat-trick of showdowns between the pair after both men advanced to the last four in Milton Keynes on Friday. Trump meets David Grace in the other semi.

First, O’Sullivan must overcome Carter, a man with whom he has shared bad blood in the past..

The head-to-head between O’Sullivan and Ding ahead of Friday’s match stood at 14-5 in favour of the Brit. The pair had also shared three draws.

However, it was Ding who got off to a flying start, instantly taking the opening frame with a 121 break, despite this marvellous escape from the Rocket.

If frame one was a marker for Ding, the next was a genuine warning to O’Sullivan as Ding this time showed fine break-building skills to amass 87 for a 2-0 lead.

O’Sullivan needed to dig in and find a foothold in the match, which he promptly managed in the third with a gritty 58. It wasn’t vintage O’Sullivan, but it was extremely timely.

Momentum had shifted and the players entered the interval all square at 2-2 thanks to a break of 59 from O’Sullivan, although Ding will feel he should have taken the frame. An unfortunate kick had opened up the table, but an over-hit black left the world No. 10 with too much to do with the following red.

The theme continued upon resumption, Ding was among the balls, but an error allowed O’Sullivan to clear up, taking the lead for the first time in the match with a swift 59.

In the sixth, it was a simple red to middle pocket that left Ding hunched over the table. Switching seamlessly between hands, O’Sullivan moved to a 4-2 advantage, one frame from victory.

Even by this stage, O’Sullivan hadn’t hit anything like top form. This was a pragmatic display from the world No. 2, capitalising on mistakes that were visibly weighing on Ding as the match went on. Where Ding needed to take more care with his shots, he was instead addressing the ball all too quickly.

The outcome of the match was predictable by now, and even more so when the Rocket found himself with the table at his mercy again in the seventh.

O’Sullivan expertly opened the pack, screwing off the black to all but sign and seal his ticket to the semi-finals.

He saved his biggest break of the match for last, securing victory with a slick 79.

And Ronnie’s assessment of  the match and his performance:


Ronnie O’Sullivan booked a showdown with rival Ali Carter in the Northern Open semi-finals after fighting back in in the last eight. The Rocket resumes his quest for the title in Milton Keynes on Saturday, but admitted he “felt useless” during the win over Ding Junhui and said his powers were on the wane. 


Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted he is “not the player he was” despite reaching the Northern Ireland Open semi-finals with an impressive comeback win over Ding Junhui.

The Rocket was staring at a two-frame deficit in Milton Keynes, which is playing host to the tournament due to Covid-19 restrictions, but reeled off five frames on the spin to progress.

O’Sullivan said he “felt useless” after watching Ding’s fast start, conceding that age had finally caught up with him along with fellow Class of ’92 players John Higgins and Mark Williams.

My potting’s not that good. I’m just not as good as I was,” O’Sullivan said, when asked why he had refused a long pot in the fourth frame.

“My long game used to be much better. I miss too many balls. Higgins is the same, Williams is the same. It’s just a natural progression as you get a bit older.

“So there’s no point going for it if you’re going to let him in amongst the balls. I might as well just smash into them and say, ‘here you are, clear up’.
“I used to be ‘the potter’. Now I wouldn’t even make the top 50 of potters on the tour.”

O’Sullivan, the current world champion, is on a collision course with Judd Trump, who bettered him in the 2018 and 2019 finals in Belfast.

But the 44-year-old was keen to salute the efforts of Ding, who at one stage looked set to sweep to a comfortable win after exploding out of the blocks.

His positional play was unbelievable with the first two breaks in the two frames. I thought ‘he’s going to punt me 5-0 here’,” said O’Sullivan.

“He wasn’t out of position once. You wonder why he hasn’t won numerous world titles.

“I literally felt useless out there, I felt embarrassed because I thought my position was OK, but compared to him it was amateur. You start to feel a bit embarrassed out there because you can’t play to the level he was playing at.

“And then he started to miss a few and I dragged him down to my level.”

O’Sullivan will next face Ali Carter in the last four, a rematch of their clash at the 2018 World Snooker Championship – the scene of their infamous ‘shoulder barge’.

Here are some short videos that WST shared on social media as the match unfolded:

Ronnie’s intro

Ronnie’s great escape in the first frame

Ding takes the first frame

And the next …

Ronnie fights back

And makes it level at the MSI

Ronnie takes the lead after the MSI

A wise decision earn him the sixth frame

And there is the win …

And part of the post-match with the ES pundits

My thoughts…

After two frames, I thought that Ronnie had no chance at all, Ding was playing incredible snooker. Ronnie, in fact had missed two balls and lost two frames. I just hoped that it wouldn’t be a whitewash.

However, in the next two frames, Ding took some unwise decisions, went for very ambitious shots and missed them. He allowed Ronnie to come back at the table, and, in the balls, at close range, Ronnie is still the best in the business.  Ronnie was patient as well when needed and manage to win those two frames. It affected Ding, he lost his confidence. It also allowed Ronnie to settle.

After the MSI, although the score was still 2-2, Ding looked a beaten man. The outcome never looked in doubt.

In the pre-match presentation, Alan McManus was asked about Ding’s chances to win the World Championship. Alan’s answer was the Ding issn’t strong enough mentally. It may sound harsh, but it’s probably true. Yesterda’s match certainly does nothing to contradict Alan’s assessment.

Ronnie saying that he didn’t actually apologise, but rather invited Ali and Mark to move on, doesn’t surprise me. Mark certainly did stand in Ronnie’s eyeline on multiple occasions at the Champion of Champions, the match footage proves it. Ronnie was right about that, although he didn’t handle the situation well; he should have spoken to Mark and the ref before it “over-boiled”.

Ronnie has now almost certainly secured his 2020 World Grand Prix spot: he’s currently 9th in one year list counting towards that event. 


2 thoughts on “2020 Northern Ireland Open – Ronnie beats Ding Junhui in the QF round

  1. I totally agree, Ronnie missed a long pot in the first and let Ding in (it certainly was not the cautious wise gameplan he had against Slessor), missed one ball in the second and I started hoping it would not be embarrassing. Also worried that the match was simply not long enough to ride out the storm and give Ding time to come off the boil a little bit. Luckily he did it faster than I expected and Ronnie afterwards had the more careful approach, especially loved the end of frame 6 when he played the snooker and did not go for a missable pot (and cued for the yellow for good measure).

    It is also good to hear that he plays/will play more carefully, not kamikaze-shots, I will go for everything attitude that was so bad last year, hope this decision will last for awhile.

    He always said he told Carter there are no hard feeling and shook hands, never said he apologized and even Mark Allen said it was a “move on message”, although I think he termed it as an apology.

    Now the problem is that I can’t take another final against Trump, neither can I take a loss against Carter, nor do I believe that David Grace delivers us from Trump, so snookerwise it is a difficult weekend.

  2. Yes Ding seemed have the plan to ‘go for everything’ and was spectacular for 2 frames. After that he started to miss a few, and the gameplan collapsed. He needed to find a better balance between attack and defence, and a more measured pace. However, his long potting was crisp and generally his form looks very good.

    But once again people are finding reasons why Ding can’t win the World Championship – it’s become an obsession. If he finds the right balance at the right time, the confidence will follow.

    I haven’t yet seen Yan Bingtao’s match with David Grace, but it does seem a surprising result. Perhaps just a bad day for Yan? I was convinced he would win that match.

    Meanwhile, in Xi’an, the first CBSA tournament since the lockdown is taking place, with 32 teams from all parts of China (even Tibet and Macau have teams) and most of the best players currently in China including professionals Mei Xiwen and Bai Langning, and many ex-professionals. Yan Bingtao’s father, Yan Dong, is the coach of the Shandong team. This is significant since a return to snooker in China could lead to WST being able to schedule tournaments in 2021 as planned.

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