Chinese snooker star Ding Junhui has just managed something that none of John Higgins, Mark WIlliams and even Ronnie O’Sullivan has ever achieved: winning three ranking titles in a row. He completed the hat-trick with a 10-9 victory over Marco Fu in the final of the International Championship in Chengdu, to go with his Shanghai Masters title in September and his Indian Open win last month.
Those wins were ranking titles number 7, 8 and 9; O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams have a combined 68 ranking titles. In fact, the last person to achieve this feat was Stephen Hendry (36 ranking titles), who won three consecutive ranking events in 1993. Ding is now at the top of the money list for 2013 (though will earn considerably more in sponsorship deals), and up to a career-high number 3 in the world rankings.
Also significant is the fact that the match between Ding and Fu was the third straight all-Asian ranking final. Yes, the tournaments were held in India and China, but ranking tournaments attract international fields.
Ding is clearly dealing with the pressures of being one of China’s best-known sports stars better than he was earlier in the year, when he wished he was an alien. Still only 26, it seems Ding is maturing into the player many predicted he would be, with the World Championship the only title of note missing from his resume. The next ranking event is the UK Championship in York, beginning November 26. CCTV-5 can expect some decent viewing figures.