Ding Junhui won his first Triple Crown event for eight years by beating Stephen Maguire 10-6 in the final of the Betway UK Championship.
Maguire went 4-0 down early in the match and, despite a bold late rally, couldn’t get back on level terms. China’s Ding took the £200,000 top prize and the fourth Triple Crown title of his career, having won the same event in 2005 and 2009 as well as the Masters in 2011.
He becomes the fifth player to win the UK Championship on three or more occasions, joining Ronnie O’Sullivan (seven), Steve Davis (six), Stephen Hendry (five) and John Higgins (three).
It’s his 14th career ranking title and first since he won the 2017 Yushan World Open, 27 months ago.
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Since then, Ding has produced only occasional flashes of his brilliant best. It has been a turbulent time for him away from snooker – he lost his mother to cancer in 2017 then became a father for the first time in 2018. His priorities in life may have changed but, on tonight’s evidence, his talent remains very much intact.
Ding arrived in York a fortnight ago on a poor run of form; in recent weeks he had lost in the early stages of ranking events against Zhao Xintong, Dominic Dale, Michael Holt and David Lilley. But the 32-year-old’s confidence has come surging back, and since beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16 he has looked destined for the silverware. He leaps seven places to ninth in the rankings.
Glasgow’s 38-year-old Maguire banks £80,000 as runner-up but misses out on a sixth ranking title and second UK crown, having won the title in 2004. He finishes the event 15th in the rankings.
A high quality final in York featured seven centuries and six more breaks over 50. Those tons took the total for the tournament to 139, beating the record of 137 set last year.
Ding led 5-3 after the first session and extended his lead in the opening frame tonight with a break of 83. Maguire could have taken the next from 45-0 down but missed a tough red to a baulk corner on 53, letting Ding in to take a 7-3 advantage.
A run of 103 from Maguire gave him frame 11 and he had first chance in the next but ran out of position on 27. Ding countered with 67 to make it 8-4 at the interval.
Back came Maguire with 103 and 124 to close to 8-6. Early in frame 15, he missed a tough red to a centre pocket, and Ding punished him with 131 to go three up with four to play. And yet another century, 103, was a fitting way for Ding to wrap up the last Triple Crown event of the decade.
“I have had to wait a long time to lift a trophy again, and this is a big one,” said Ding. “It has been an amazing week and I have played fantastic snooker. It means everything to me. When Stephen came back to 8-6 he looked strong, but I stayed calm and waited for my chances.
“I believe in myself. All week my head has been clear and strong and happy. I still want to win the World Championship but this is also a big one. For the last two years people have doubted me, asking whether I would win again. Now I believe I can win more, and this is a good start.
“I believe more and more parents in China will watch snooker and follow my matches, their children might not know snooker yet but they will get interested and want to play.”
“I have had to wait a long time for this,” said Ding. “It has been an amazing week and I have played fantastic snooker. When Stephen came back to 8-6 he looked strong, but I waited for my chances.
“I believe in myself. All week my head has been strong. I still want to win the World Championship but this is also a big one. For the last two years people have doubted me, asking whether I would win again. Now I believe I can win more.”
Maguire said: “I tried going hell for leather, but it’s difficult when Ding is also in scoring mood. The way he finishes the match off was fantastic. At 8-6 I felt I could make more clearances. It’s a tough school. I lost the match by going 4-0 down. I had nerves at the start, I didn’t settle. But I still enjoyed it.”
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