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Monday, 4 November 2013

Internation Championship final round up + Thoughts

Ding Junhui yesterday added the 2013 International Championship title to his recent victories in Shanghai & India to make it three ranking titles on the bounce,but boy was he made to work for it,as Marco Fu pushed him all the way in what was a final of the highest quality.

As has been quoted many time over the last few days,this was the first time somebody has claimed three ranking events in a row since the great Stephen Hendry won five in a row in 1990.This was of course at a time when Hendry  dominated the game.much as Davis had done in the decade before. It is unlikely we will ever see this sort of domination over a long period of time again,but maybe now with so many tournaments, short bursts of invincibility,like we have seen from Ding over the last month, will become the modern version of dominance.

This has truly been a glorious period for Ding.He has always been a joy to watch in the balls(every bit as beautiful to witness building a break as O'Sullivan & Higgins) but he now seems to have the all round game that perhaps hasn't been there in the past.His temperament under pressure had,with in fairness some justification, been questioned but I think those doubts can now be put to bed after coming through the sternest of tests here in the final.

On to the match then and what a match it was. Fu started the brighter of the two,winning the opening two frames.Ding eventually got off the mark in the third before Fu won the next to go to midsession interval 3-1.We have often seen how a interval can change things as Ding emerged to play what can only be described as flawless snooker as breaks of 92,138,127 & 126 moved him into the lead at 5-3.Fu to his credit managed to win the next to finish the session  just 5-4 down.

Into the evening then and Ding was quick out the blocks with another century,his fifth of the match,to move 6-4,but Fu ha also grown in confidence since his Australian Open win and fought back to level at 6-6.

In a match that was now quickly becoming a classic Fu edged ahead again at 7-6 before Ding responded to make it 7-7.This pattern continued into the next two frames with the score becoming 8-8 before a dramatic hour long 17th frame went to Fu leaving him just one from the title at 9-8.As we've said earlier though this is a very different Ding these days and the Chinese superstar held his nerve to win the next making it 9-9 and forcing a decider.From here he was not to be denied as,to the delight of the crowd,he wrapped up the title with a run of 91.

A great final then to cap a great week of snooker action.When this tournament first staged last year,with the longer match format it was presumed it was done so with the hope of it eventually becoming a major to rank along side the UK Championship.Of course the advantage to "UK" has is long a history,but things have to start somewhere and if it continues to serve up finals of the quality we have seen these last two years then it wont be long before it has a a rich history of its own to look at.

As for the finalist, although ultimately falling short Fu can be rightly proud of his performance.he has always been a player with great ability but has lacked the consistency needed to win the titles his talents deserve.There have been signs this season though that he has rectified these problems and if he has he will be a dangerous opponent for anyone he meets.

Ding however continues to ride the crest of a wave.His play over the last month has been phenomenal,not just his break building but also in his approach to the game.He has been the standard bearer for Chinese snooker for so long now you tend to forget he is only 26.His emergence all those years ago sparked the Chinese love affair with the game which has seen so many more players come through albeit none of them quite at Dings level.If continues to improve now,(something which is entirely possible as he is now theoretically only coming into his prime) he may well be the man to beat come the Crucible next April.We can only imagine what the first Chinese World Champion would do for the game!

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