It is only really possible to understand the extent to which Ding Junhui dominates the agenda in China once you have witnessed it for yourself at first hand.
The players all know this, and for the most part tolerate the situation with a raised eyebrow and good humour. After all, it can be similar back home with Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The phenomenon often manifests itself in awkward exchanges in press conferences, particularly when a disappointed player has lost and is therefore less keen to shoot the breeze about Ding then they might be had they won.
Judd Trump was asked earlier in the week what he had made of Ding’s match against Jack Lisowski, when had been playing in his own match at the same time. And all Shaun Murphy’s ambassadorial qualities were tested on Thursday following his defeat to Graeme Dott in the post-match exchanges.
With Dott in the same section as Ding – who played later that evening against Martin Gould – Murphy was asked how Dott would do against Ding in the quarter-finals. “Well, Ding has to win tonight first, doesn’t he?” said the former world champion. “Do you think Martin has no chance against Ding? You’re asking will Ding beat Martin and Graeme Dott? Graeme is a former world champion and Ding is not, so even if he gets through the last-16 match he will have a very, very difficult match on his hands. But he has to win tonight first anyway.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos