China's Ding Junhui booked his place in the Masters final with a
6-2 victory over six-time winner Stephen Hendry at Wembley Arena at
the wee hours of Sunday (Beijing Time).
After a slow start, the 19-year-old quickly found his form and,
having led 3-1 at the interval, he finished the job with the loss
of only one more frame to oust the Scot.
"I've not reached my best form yet, but I will try to play well
in the final," said Ding, speaking through a translator.
"It's always very difficult to beat Stephen here. He always
looks very comfortable. But I'm delighted to have won. I'm very
happy. I want to play better, though."
Ding now faces either twice Masters winner Ronnie O'Sullivan or
2004 UK winner Stephen Maguire in early Monday's best-of-19 frame
final (Beijing Time), having already knocked out Welsh Open
champion Stephen Lee and UK Championship winner Peter Ebdon.
"The best compliment I can give him is that there's only two or
three players where you don't think you'll get back to the table --
and he's consistently doing it," said Hendry.
"It was a good match to be involved in. If I can cut out the two
or three errors, I'm feeling I'm still in the right direction.”
"It's a great challenge for me to get my game back to compete
with the likes of Ding," added Hendry.
"If Ding's going to keep playing like that, then he's going to
be a top four player for the next 10-15 years. I can't see him
going off the rails."
The talented teenager started in surprisingly slow fashion, but
with breaks of 39 and 41 managed to edge the opening two frames of
Back came Hendry, winner of the Masters on a record five
successive occasions from 1989 to 1993.
A break of 56 saw the seven-time world champion reduce the
arrears but, when it looked as if he would level the score, the
38-year-old Scot had a stroke of bad luck.
On a break of 42 and only needing a few more balls to square the
match, Hendry tried to pot the green which somehow bounced out of
the pocket. That allowed Ding to snatch the frame with a pressure
25 clearance to lead 3-1.
Hendry hit back immediately after the resumption of play with a
superb 129 break, but it only spurred Ding on.
The Asian ace pocketed a 64 break, after Hendry missed a routine
black on a break of 51, to make it 4-2.
Ding then turned on the style by compiling a splendid 128 break
to make it 5-2 before a 61 clinched a deserved victory.
(CRI January 21, 2007 )