Ding Jinhui and Liang Wenbo
Millions of TV viewers were gripped by an epic battle yesterday. The arena: the snooker World Championship in Sheffield, England. The combatants: Chinese players Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo.
Ding began the session well, cementing an overnight lead with a further two frames to take him 7-4 ahead of Liang.
But Liang rallied magnificently, taking the next four frames to give him a narrow lead over his compatriot.
Having failed to pot a ball for over an hour, it looked like things might be over for Ding. But then he produced a clearance of 111 to take the 16th frame. Breaks of 91 and 63 on the following frames secured him the match.
The world number 11 now faces Stephen Hendry, a seven-time world champion. Hendry beat Ding in Sheffield last year, but Ding must still savour memories of his win over the Scotsman in the 2005 China Open. He delighted the Beijing crowd by coming from 4-1 down to beat Hendry 9-5 in the final.
Current champion Ronnie O’Sullivan believes Ding Junhui has what it takes to go all the way. He is reported to have said in the past, "Tennis has Federer, golf has Tiger Woods, Ding could do the same to snooker."
But this year, O’Sullivan is himself the focus of most attention. The world number one was recently put under review after making lewd comments at a news conference during the China Open.
Nevertheless, O’Sullivan is a favourite to win this year’s championship. In the second frame of his first-round victory over Stuart Bingham, it took ‘The Rocket’ just seven minutes to deliver a clearance of 140.
Yet O’Sullivan is anything but complacent. After the game he was asked to judge his performance out of 10. He said, "Five. Something like that."