2024 World Grand Prix: Ding Junhui Aims for His Season's Inaugural Ranking Title

In a closely contested battle at the Spreadex World Grand Prix, Ding Junhui emerged victorious with a 4-3 win over Ricky Walden. The match, characterised by its cagey and tight nature, saw both players giving their all on the green baize, with missed shots adding to the drama. Following the match, the Chinese Dragon sat down with SportsBoom to give his thoughts on the encounter, and his title endeavours for the rest of the season.

Snooker leaning over the table
Louis Hobbs

Written by: Louis Hobbs

(Senior Sports Writer)

Fact checked by: Wade McElwain

(Senior Sports Writer)

Last updated: 2024-01-18

8 minutes read

Walden Runs Out of Stamina

In a first round encounter at the 2024 Spreadex World Grand Prix, Ding Junhui asserted his dominance from the start, notching a sublime 63 break in the opening frame, setting the tone for a thrilling contest. In the second frame, Ding's strategic prowess shone as he engaged in an intense safety battle, snookering Walden three times and securing a narrow two-frame lead.

 

The third frame witnessed Walden's determined response with a commendable 55 break, leveling the score at 2-2 after a scrappy fourth frame where both players missed easy reds. In a pivotal fifth frame, Walden capitalized on Ding's errors, executing a brilliant clearance of 64 to take the lead for the first time. However, Ding showcased unwavering confidence in the sixth, unleashing a commanding 70 break and forcing a one-frame shootout.

 

Known for his consistency, Ding displayed nerves of steel in the decisive seventh frame. Despite a slight mishap on the black ball, he recovered without conceding to Walden. With determination, the Chinese snooker star returned to the table, pinching the last frame, and sealing a hard-fought 4-3 victory in this gripping encounter.

Ding’s Take on the Tight Encounter

In an exclusive post-match interview with SportsBoom, Ding Junhui shared his thoughts on the game, acknowledging Walden's determined effort. "He really tried to win the game. He's put his everything in," said Ding, highlighting the competitive nature of the encounter. Ding's strategic approach played a crucial role, with his openness allowing him to capitalize on half-chances when they arose.

A Stroke of Luck and Sportsmanship

The interview delved into a pivotal moment in the match – a missed black ball by Ding in the last frame. However, the Chinese snooker sensation turned a potential setback into a stroke of luck. "When I hit the black ball and thought I made a massive error, but it landed in a safe position behind two red balls. We just shook hands and laughed about my luck," Ding shared, displaying a sportsmanlike spirit in the face of uncertainty.

 

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Ding’s Confidence and The Crucible

Reflecting on his overall performance this year, Ding Junhui expressed confidence in his form and hinted at a strong desire to secure his first ranking title of the year. "My aim is always to win the tournament," he emphasized, showcasing his focus on taking one match at a time and giving his best on match days.

 

As the conversation shifted to Ding Junhui's past performances at the Crucible, the snooker star revealed a subtle change in his approach this year. "This season just changed a little bit much better. I’m not sure what it is, finally, it's just the feeling back," Ding disclosed, hinting at a renewed sense of confidence and comfort in his game.

 

Despite the challenges of the past few years, Ding Junhui remained resilient. "I always bounce back. Bouncing back to the top is what I do. I keep practicing, which I don’t normally do", he affirmed, emphasising his changed commitment to the sport and his new belief in the power of consistent practice.

The Rocket Effect

Addressing the prospect of facing snooker legend Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ding acknowledged the unique challenge. "He doesn't make mistakes, but when you put pressure on other players, they can. That's what's different; you can't put pressure on Ronnie to make a mistake," Ding remarked, highlighting the mental fortitude required when playing against top-tier opponents.

 

Addressing the formidable prospect of facing snooker legend Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ding Junhui candidly acknowledged the unique challenge that comes with competing against one of the sport's all-time greats. Ding emphasised O'Sullivan's renowned ability to avoid making mistakes, creating a distinctive dynamic on the table. "He doesn't make mistakes, but when you put pressure on other players, they can. That's what's different; you can't put pressure on Ronnie to make a mistake," Ding remarked, shedding light on the mental fortitude required when engaging with top-tier opponents.

 

Interestingly, in the snooker world, the rivalry between Ali Carter and Ronnie O'Sullivan has been a contrasting narrative. Carter, known for his competitive spirit, has engaged in heated face-offs with O'Sullivan on various occasions, with the most recent happening in the recent Masters final. 

 

In contrast, Ding Junhui has maintained a different approach in his encounters with the Rocket. Despite the inherent challenges posed by O'Sullivan's unparalleled skill, Ding has successfully navigated the competition without succumbing to heated confrontations. This divergence in approach showcases Ding Junhui's commitment to maintaining a professional and focused demeanour on the snooker table. While other players may find themselves in intense exchanges with O'Sullivan, Ding's strategic mindset and disciplined approach have allowed him to navigate the unique challenges posed by facing The Rocket. 

The Future of Snooker in China

The interview concluded with Ding Junhui shedding light on the surge of young Chinese players in the snooker scene. He attributed this phenomenon to the massive market for snooker in China, where the passion for the sport and the desire to emulate success on the global stage are driving the younger generation.

 

“Snookers market in China is massive right now, they still love to watch, they're still interested in the young ones to grow up and do what I did, win titles and win big tournaments. They just seem to love playing more than the UK. It probably helps that there's 20 times more people than the UK, we've got a population advantage”, Ding added. 

 

In summary, Ding Junhui's triumph over Ricky Walden at the Spreadex World Grand Prix not only showcased his skill on the table but also provided a glimpse into his mindset and determination to make a mark in the ongoing snooker season.

 

Image credit: World Snooker Tour (WST)

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Louis Hobbs

Louis Hobbs

Meet Louis Hobbs, our esteemed authority on all matters sports-related. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Louis effortlessly emerges as our go-to expert. His particular expertise in the realms of darts and snooker sets him apart and brings a level of insight that goes beyond the ordinary. Louis also holds a deep affection for all things related to US sports, with a special emphasis on basketball and American football, which stand out as his particular favorites. His content may not resonate with you, if you don't consider Lamar Jackson the most skilled player in the NFL.

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