DING Junhui ended a wait of more than eight years of winning major silverware on home soil after beating Xiao Goudong in this year’s Shanghai Masters final.
In the first ever all-Chinese final in snooker’s history, the world number 12 reigned supreme with a comfortable 10-6 victory to secure his first ranking title in the Far East since winning the China Open in 2005.
This is Ding’s seventh ranking title of his career and there is a sense that winning in Shanghai this week is a big weight off his shoulders after previously struggling to deliver the goods in the sport’s major competitions played in China.
And it cannot be argued he has done it the hard way after beating several of the world’s top stars en-route to the crown including Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Barry Hawkins.
In a snooker world where no one player seems able to dominate, it will be interesting to see if this victory will push Ding onto to win more titles in the foreseeable future.
His opponent Xiao Guodong, world number 39, can take huge encouragement after enjoying his best week in snooker which saw him reach his first ever ranking final.
And the 24-year-old, who now maybe regarded as China’s next star in the making, certainly gave Ding a good run for his money in the opening session of this final.
Breaks of 42 and 83 gave Ding a quickfire 2-0 lead before Xiao came back replying with runs of 62 and 67 to level the scores.
Ding regained the lead after the mid-session interval but Guodong again showed signs he was up for his biggest match of his career by winning the sixth frame to level at 3-3.
But it was Ding who then forged control of the contest winning the next three frames, including hitting the matches’ highest break of 126, to take a commanding 6-3 lead at the halfway stage.
Xiao started the evening session on a positive note and a fluent break of 78 gave him a much-needed frame to reduce his deficit to 6-4.
But sloppy misses from Xiao early in frames 11 and 12 were punished by Ding as breaks of 58 and 78 put him 8-4 to the good.
A missed long red from Xiao then allowed Ding to go within one frame of glory as a break of 81 put him in full control at 9-4 ahead.
With the pressure off, Xiao rallied after the mid-session interval to pro-long his best week in snooker which included wins over Yuan Sijun, Stephen Maguire, Peter Lines, Mark Davis and Michael Holt – breaks of 46 and 45 reduced his deficit to 9-6.
But any thoughts of a dramatic comeback were erased when Ding fought back from 45 points behind in frame sixteen to clinch the trophy and the top cash prize of £80,000.
Ding’s route to Shanghai Glory:
R1 beat David Gilbert 5-2
R2 beat Shaun Murphy 5-4
QF beat Neil Robertson 5-2
SF beat Barry Hawkins 6-2
Final beat Xiao Guodong 10-6