Ding Junhui is set to begin the defence of his surprise UK Championship title twelve months ago – but has revealed he is unsure whether he can repeat the success in 2020.
Snooker’s professional stars are battling for one of the sport’s biggest trophies with a huge £200,000 top prize on offer.
The major ranking event – arguably the second biggest ranking event of the season behind the World Championship – was won by China’s number one last year after he beat Scotland’s Stephen Maguire in the final.
Twelve months on and the world seems a completely different place to when Ding held aloft the UK Championship trophy – his first ranking title in the UK for eight years.
The global coronavirus pandemic has ripped up the traditional snooker season to shreds. No ranking events have been played in China so far this season and no crowds have been able to see live snooker since the new season got underway.
Milton Keynes has become the temporary home for the World Snooker Tour and will be the host of this year’s UK Championship rather than it’s usual home of the Barbican Theatre in York.
According to SportsBettingDime.com, the top five contenders for the upcoming UK Championship are.
Notice how last year’s winner Ding is not on the list?
Well since his victory, Ding has failed to build on the success and has not recaptured the form which earned him his silverware twelve months ago.
During last week’s Northern Ireland Open Ding was asked about his chances of more UK Championship glory -but his answer certainly wasn’t within the convincing category.
He said: “I don’t know about my chances at the UK Championship. At the moment my level isn’t too high.
“I am just trying to bring myself to another level, be stronger and if I do that maybe I will have more of a chance to win it. I am just enjoying playing now, so I’m not putting myself under too much pressure.”
But the Chinese star will go into the tournament off the back of a somewhat strange performance in his Northern Ireland Open quarter-final loss to Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Ding soared into a 2-0 lead early on playing almost flawless snooker before he collapsed to a 5-2 defeat.
Ding will kick off his defence on Thursday with a first round match against Jamie Curtis-Barrett and could face Northern Ireland Open semi-finalist David Grace in the second round.