Ding Junhui proved that he is still the top Chinese cueist after beating compatriot Xiao Guodong 10-6 in the Shanghai Masters final last night, clinching his seventh ranking tournament title.
In the first all-Chinese final at a ranking event, Ding became the first home favorite to top the Shanghai event in its seven-year history. The Wuxi native gave a rare smile at the presentation ceremony and also provided autographs for fans immediately after clinching his 10th frame.
Both players seemed to be nervous for the final showdown of the week-long tournament, making mistakes in the first frame that began in the afternoon. Ding, however, took a 2-0 lead before Xiao responded by taking the next two. The two were tied 3-3 after six frames.
Ding then powered a 126 break in the seventh, carrying the momentum to win the next two frames and establish a 6-3 lead going into the evening session.
Riding on support from local fans, who seem to be supporting both their heroes in equal measure, Xiao, nicknamed “jelly” because his name sounds like jelly in Chinese, returned to clinch the 10th frame with a 78 and make the score 6-4. But Ding dominated the next three to move within one frame of victory at 9-4.
With nothing to lose, Xiao went for broke, taking advantage of a laid-back Ding to close the gap to 9-6. However, he was not able to make regular big breaks and the two had a seesaw battle in the 16th frame before Ding ended the rally with a 71 to wrap things up and seal the title with a 10-6 victory.
“Both of us played pretty okay today. I’m extremely happy to win the first all-Chinese final. As more young players spring up, we should be able to see more such ‘derbies’ in the future,” said the 12th-ranked Ding, who earned 7,000 points for the win, which will see him rise to No. 7 in the world ranking.
Ding’s best finish at the Shanghai event before was reaching the quarterfinals. The 26-year-old has often struggled to handle the weight of expectations when playing in China.
It’s also his second ranking title in six months after capturing the PTC Grand Finals in March. He won 80,000 pounds (US$128,000) while Xiao took home 35,000 pounds.
At age 24, Xiao has no less reason to celebrate than Ding after making history in Shanghai by cruising into his first ranking tournament final.
“Regardless of the result, it’s an important moment in China’s snooker history,” said Xiao, who climbed up to 28th in the world ranking. “My next goal is to reach the top 16. Hope I can keep the form until next year.”
No player has yet managed to defend the championship in Shanghai, as the tournament has had seven different winners since it began in 2007.
Barry Hawkins of England pocketed 2,000 pounds for the highest break of 140 during his semifinal against Ding. Ding had won that match 6-2.