DING JUNHUI’S capture of the German Masters title in Berlin on Sunday confirms him as a modern snooker great and at 26 his best years may well be ahead of him.
Ding’s 9-5 defeat of Judd Trump netted him his tenth ranking title, which moves him into joint sixth on the all-time winners list with Jimmy White.
Last season, each ranking title was won by a different player. Ding has now won four of the campaign’s first seven.
He did it in style. In early trouble at 4-2 down to Trump in Berlin, he managed to get out of the afternoon session level at 4-4 and then came out all guns blazing in the evening.
The way he ruthlessly killed off the first three frames of the last session, and with it took control of the final, was reminiscent of a Hendry or O’Sullivan at their best. This is the company in which China’s favourite snooker son belongs.
Ding has made the difficult transition from awkward adolescent to charming young man. There is a genuine, likeable quality to him. His humility is real and, perhaps crucially, he is settled in his personal life, which allows him to give his snooker career his full attention.
He has learned English and ever since winning the Shanghai Masters – his first ranking title in China for eight years – has seemed more relaxed, as if the weight of expectation in his native land has lifted.
Ding is a huge star in China and is emerging as one of this centuries’ great champions. The one remaining hurdle to clear will be at the Crucible, the venue which ultimately defines all careers – for good and bad.
A word finally for the Tempodrom, which came into its own in the last two days when it went down to one table. Berlin brings out the crowds and they are passionate, enthusiastic but also respectful of the game and its players.
Some felt there were too many players, too many matches, not enough days for the tournament. But nobody can argue that the finale was staged in an atmosphere which can stand with any the sport has to offer.
So well done Ding but well done as well to Germany, whose love affair with snooker shows no sign of abating.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.