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Ding eyes up mouthwatering semi-final with O'Sullivan after kicking off world bid

 

By Charlie Bennett

Ding Junhui may have just reached the Betfred World Snooker Championship second round but he is already dreaming of a glamour semi-final with Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Chinese potter Ding was in fine form against his compatriot Xiao Guodong in the opening round, storming from 2-0 down to register an impressive 10-3 win.

But the 31-year-old, who is yet to lift the title at the Crucible, is already looking ahead to a potential last-four contest with O'Sullivan - the game's stand-out player this year and the heavy favourite to win a sixth world title.

"I want to play Ronnie, I really do. I want to improve myself and he is the hardest to beat so I want to play him," he said.

"It is always a good test and I want to win every match. It is not always impossible but I want to increase my win percentage and beat everyone else."

Xiao, the current World No.25, had only ever won one match at the Crucible Theatre before but he started like he owned the place with breaks of 82 and 54 giving him a 2-0 lead.

Ding was noticeably rusty, missing balls he would normally make in his sleep, but as soon as he got on the board in frame three his confidence grew considerably.

A composed century of 124 gave him the lead and only a steady 57 from Xiao prevented Ding from winning every other frame in the session.

And then breaks of 72, 61, 51, 78 and 98 carried him over the line and into the second round for the sixth successive year.

Elsewhere, 2015 champion Stuart Bingham crashed out 10-7 to qualifier Jack Lisowski. It was Bingham's first appearance at the Crucible since he was banned for three months for betting on matches.

Lisowski showed his potential early as he fired in two ton breaks in the first three frames to take a 2-1 lead, but Bingham responded with a 123 break of his own in the fourth to level 2-2.

But the former champion was forced to sit and watch as Lisowski rattled off three consecutive frames to go 5-2 ahead and he never relinquished that lead.

Bingham did fight back admirably, but a 98 break and a tightly-fought frame took Lisowski one frame from victory, and he wrapped it up three frames later.

Mark Williams took a 7-2 lead against Jimmy Robertson in the afternoon session, displaying some of his best snooker that underlined why he is being touted as one of the favourites to win the title.

Elsewhere, Ricky Walden beat Luca Brecel 10-6 after holding off a late comeback from the Czech potter.

Walden racked up a ton as he extended his 6-3 overnight lead to 8-3 with the opening two frames, but back fought World No.13 Brecel as he tallied three consecutive frames to reduce the deficit to just two.

But Walden managed to grab the next two frames to close out the tie and progress to the second round, where he will meet either Judd Trump or Chris Wakelin.

"I played well in most of the game," Walden said. "My game is razor sharp."

Watch the snooker World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.

Belfast Telegraph

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