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Double-Century Ding Cruises to UK Last Eight
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China's snooker ace Ding Junhui took a leaf out of President Bush's book and stayed the course for defending his UK championship title, brushing off Matthew Stevens 9-5 for a place in the quarter-finals in York, England on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old, buoyed by the three gold medals garnered at the Asian Games, produced some brilliant long pots and consistent breaks of 111, 100, 92 and 81 to keep the wheels firmly on his title defense.

He is bidding to rank alongside Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis as only the third man to successfully defend a title won as a qualifier 12 months ago.

Ding, who is always accompanied by his good-luck charm in the form of a toy dolphin called Dong, did display a lack of concentration at times against Stevens which is hardly surprising after his gilt-edged exertions in Doha last week.

Ding admitted his hectic schedule was taking its toll.

"I'm relieved to have won, because I didn't play very well," the teenager, who will next face Peter Ebdon, said through an interpreter. "Near the end of the last frame, I played a blue a bit too fast and I regret that a bit. It felt quite hot in the arena, and that disturbed me.

"I'm not feeling very stable just now. I didn't feel very confident before the match and I was a bit worried in the first session, because Matthew played well."

Ding, who represented his country to play in the Asian Games, won the singles crown as well as gold in the team event and doubles in Qatar.

Also on Tuesday, provisional world No 1 Ken Doherty became the highest-ranked player to bow out of this year's UK Championship when he lost 9-6 to Joe Perry, making Ding's path to victory a little easier.

The Irishman, who was on course to move up from his current No 2 position, won just one of the last seven frames against a man who is a specialist in this event.

Perry has reached the semi-finals for the last two years and is now into the last eight, in which he will meet John Higgins.

Coming back to the table with a 5-3 overnight advantage, Doherty made the only three century breaks of the match but otherwise struggled to score heavily as Perry gradually got on top.

"Joe shut me out for three frames," said the 1997 world champion. "He played really well, and I missed a few chances. I should have gone 6-3 up - and if I had it would have been different.

"Things just weren't happening for me. But sometimes that's the way it goes, and it makes things pretty difficult."

(China Daily December 14, 2006)

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