Ronnie O'Sullivan wary of Ding Junhui threat at Welsh Open: 'I'll have to play well'

March 2, 2022
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

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Ronnie O’Sullivan plays Ding Junhui on Thursday afternoon at the Welsh Open (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan is expecting a stern test from Ding Junhui at the Welsh Open on Thursday and he is glad see the Chinese superstar playing some good snooker again.

It has been a seriously quiet season for Ding, unable to compete in every tournament due to being back in China and hampered by Covid-related travel problems and he is playing catch-up.

The 34-year-old has slipped right down to number 32 in the world rankings, which seemed unthinkable for a player who was a fixture in the top 16 for over a decade.

However, he seems to be finding form again, turning in an immense performance to beat Michael Holt in the last 64, making breaks of 138, 111 and 103 in a 4-1 win.

It caught the eye of the Rocket and he knows he will have to be on form himself if he is to progress past the last 32 when the two meet on Thursday afternoon.

‘Yeah, looking forward to it. I like to play Ding, he’s a proper player, plays the game in the right way. Fantastic player,’ O’Sullivan told BBC Wales after beating Lukas Kleckers 4-2 in the last 64 on Wednesday.

Ding and O’Sullivan have a great relationship, with Ronnie congratulating him at the 2017 World Championship after suffering a quarter-final defeat (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I’ll have to play well because I know he’s been cueing well and making some big breaks, but it’s great to see him back.’

Ding is now behind Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao, Zhou Yuelong, Liang Wenbo and Fan Zhengyi in the world rankings, which is also quite incredible, having been the standout Chinese performer for so many years.

Zhao has burst into prominence this season, winning the UK Championship and German Masters, Yan won the Masters last year and Fan came from nowhere to win the European Masters last weekend.

O’Sullivan reckons the success of his younger compatriots has spurred Ding on to rediscover his best form.

‘I think the young Chinese players have inspired him to get his game back, which is great for him and Chinese snooker,’ said the Rocket.

‘So, yeah looking forward to it. Pleased to still be in the game.’

O’Sullivan and Ding meet in Newport at 1pm on Thursday, as the Chinese looks to snap a six-match losing streak against the Englishman, dating back to the 2019 UK Championship when Ding prevailed.

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