Sports / Snooker

Ding's performance lifts Chinese snooker

By Hector Nunns ( Updated: 2016-05-03 21:06

Ding's performance lifts Chinese snooker

Ding Junhui during the final on day 17 of the Betfred World Snooker Championship May 2, 2016.[Photo/IC]

China is set to play a dominant role in world snooker, according to some of the sport's top officials as they reacted to Ding Junhui's best-ever performance by an Asian player in a world title event.

Ding, 29, who moved to the UK at the age of 15 to pursue his snooker dream, this week narrowly missed unseating Mark Selby from his world number 1 spot in a gripping final of the World Championship at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.

It was another landmark in a career in which Ding has served as his country's standard-bearer in a sport that is undergoing a rapid growth of interest and participation. Ding has inspired a new wave of young players who would like to match his career haul of 11 ranking titles.

Barry Hearn, chairman of rights-holders World Snooker, said the Chinese government was pouring investment into sport and this would help the country dominate not only snooker but most other sports within 10 to 15 years.

"Do I want to see the top 16 players all Chinese players?" said Hearn. "The system is there, if they are good enough, to do exactly that."

Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, said snooker was already huge in China: "They've got 1,500 snooker clubs in Shanghai alone, and 1,200 in Beijing. These are huge numbers. In participation it is big, but in media and television it is also very big."

Aside from Ding, players such as Zhou Yuelong, Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong are likely to become a lot more familiar over the next decade as will others competing in a sport that attracts 100 million television viewers at home.

During this year's final it was announced that the World Championship is to stay in Sheffield until at least 2027. But other major events will be held in China, notably in Beijing, Shanghai and Daqing. Hearn hinted that if China was missing out on hosting the World Championship for the foreseeable future, other, bigger events would be set up there instead.

Ding, whose record at the World Championship had been poor before this year, said: "Five years ago I reached the semi-finals, and this year I made it one step further so maybe next time I'll win this. The experience is massive for my career. If I can stay playing like that then I will win more tournaments.

"Some people in China will be disappointed, but I'm not disappointed in getting to the final."

The Chinese player received a plaudit from seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry, who said: "Ding is a player at a different level to most of the others. It has been tough for him at times. He has been playing since seven or eight years of age, so that is well over 20 years. That's a lot of snooker.

Hendry added: "Maybe he got bored at moments, but it looks as if he is past that. He is smiling more even when things go wrong, and the weight seems to have been lifted."

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