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Ssb - under pressure

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  • Ssb - under pressure

    Another week in China, another time to ponder Ding Junhui.

    Few would argue that Ding is one of snooker’s finest break-builders. He has won six world ranking titles, including two UK Championships, plus the Masters.

    To me, he is a top four player but the fact remains he is not in the top four and in China itself he invariably struggles.

    The conclusion must be that this is the pressure of expectation. When he won the 2005 China Open the week he turned 18 he was a virtual unknown, suddenly catapulted to fame.

    Fans maybe assumed success would come easily to him after that initial win, but success doesn’t come easily to anyone in snooker.

    The curious way snooker works saw Ding, who hails from Wuxi, have to qualify in Gloucester. Luckily for the tournament he did, but only just, beating Aditya Mehta 5-4.

    It is Ding the game has to thank for the Wuxi Classic. It began as an invitation event, the Jiangsu Classic, played in the place he grew up and he won the first staging.

    Now it’s a ranking event, one of five in China. But Ding’s influence seems to have benefited everyone bar the man himself.

    It seems odd that the only ranking event he has won on home soil was that 2005 success. It proves that home support can be a curse as well as a plus. Jimmy White may agree with that.

    Snooker is perhaps the ultimate individual sport but when Ding plays in China he is playing for a nation, knowing there are many millions willing him to succeed.

    I don't think this is the whole story with Ding - he is an inconsistent player in general. But it is a factor and part of the reason is that none of his compatriots have seriously threatened his status as top dog.

    There are many other Chinese players – eight others have qualified – but Ding is still very much China’s no.1 and this puts him on a precarious pedestal.

    On Monday he plays Jamie Burnett, a former Shanghai Masters runner-up. Ding once thrashed him at the Crucible but on Chinese soil the old uncertainties return.

    He would, of course, be a very popular winner of the title. Maybe a run to a trophy in China would banish the pressures he feels when he plays there once and for all.

    But it is those pressures, as much as the quality of the opposition, which could once again stand in his way.