Ding beats Zhou in all-China battle at World Snooker Championhip
China’s Ding Junhui advanced to the second round of the world championship with a 10-5 win over teenage compatriot Zhou Yuelong at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in northern England on Tuesday.
Ding, beaten in last year’s final as England’s Mark Selby thwarted his bid to become the first Asian player to win the world title, resumed with a 7-2 overnight lead.
But 19-year-old Zhou, up against his snooker hero, cut the deficit to 7-4 thanks to efforts of 60 and 93.
There were no more century breaks in the match from Ding, who on Monday completed three centuries, including the two highest breaks of the tournament in contributions of 136 and 132.
But some solid play, including a break of 68 in the 15th and final frame, saw Ding to victory.
“I played well in the first session when he was a bit nervous,” Ding told the BBC. “It was hard for him because he has no experience of playing at the Crucible.
“But he came back and he will be a lot better next year,” added Ding, who could next face another Chinese cueman in Liang Wenbo if his countryman gets past Stuart Carrington.
Meanwhile, snooker great Ronnie O’Sullivan tried to draw a line, for the rest of the tournament at least, on his row with the sport’s administrators.
O’Sullivan slammed World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn shortly after his first-round win over Gary Wilson on Sunday, with the five-times world champion feeling he had been treated harshly in receiving a disciplinary letter after he criticised referee Terry Camilleri - and swore at a press photographer during January’s Masters a tournament he won.
Snooker’s biggest drawcard, O’Sullivan insisted he was done with being “bullied” and “intimidated” by officials.
The Englishman’s comments, amid familiar threats of his retirement from snooker, have overshadowed the opening stages of the world championship.
But, as if conscious the situation was getting out of hand, the 41-year-old issued a statement on Tuesday, saying: “There has been some speculation and commentary around the answers I gave when questioned by the media at my press conference on Sunday.
“Any outstanding issues with the snooker authorities will be addressed by my legal team following the conclusion of this great event, when I hope a sensible resolution can be reached.”
O’Sullivan, nicknamed ‘The Rocket’ for the speed of his break-building, added: “I will not be making any further comment about this during the world championships. I request the press and media respect this position in all further interviews.
“I wish to focus all my energies on performing to the very best of my ability for the fans in my quest for a sixth world title.”
Earlier, four-time world John Higgins, speaking after his 10-6 first-round win over Martin Gould, sympathised with O’Sullivan’s position.
“He has a lot to take on his shoulders in this sport because he is the biggest name - along with Ding, the biggest name in the Far East,” said the Scot.
“The game would be a lot poorer without him.”