While John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan were locking horns last night in their extraordinary semi-final, Ding Junhui had his feet up in his hotel room and the ferociously talented Chinese potter enters today’s Pukka Pies UK Championship final refreshed and ready to land the title for a second time.
Ding, the 2005 UK champion, has reached the final off the back of three good wins over last year’s winner Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire. He is appearing in a second successive ranking tournament final following his run in the Grand Prix two months ago and has been highly focused and highly effective throughout the week in Telford.
In the balls, he is as good a break builder as O’Sullivan and Higgins. He’s a heavy scorer with more than 150 centuries to his name after only six years on the circuit.
Ding seems to have rediscovered the self belief he lost off the back of demoralising defeats to O’Sullivan in the 2007 Masters final and in the first round of that year’s World Championship.
He has played Higgins nine times but only beaten him twice. Even so, the Scot still has to come down from the amazing drama of his semi-final.
Higgins led O’Sullivan 8-2 but lost six frames on the spin in what threatened to become the most disappointing result of his long and distinguished career.
In the end, he fell over the winning line in a nervy decider and he needs to somehow pick himself back up and concentrate on today’s best of 19 frames clash.
That is easier said than done, which is why Ding needs to hit him early and do some damage in the first session.
If he can get on top and carry a good lead into the evening it will be hard to see him losing.
Ding’s upturn in fortunes has been a long time coming. He has exhibited mental strength and played extremely well in high pressure situations just to get this far.
A second UK title is within his grasp if he keeps believing.