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Snooker: Ding Through Qualifiers After Tough Scrape
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Ding Junhui endured a tough time at his opening match at the 2007 World Snooker China Open yesterday in Beijing, before claiming victory 5-3 against Adrian Gunnell.

The 19-year-old snooker whizkid, sporting new reddish highlights in his hair, reached the last 32 but Gunnell put up a tough fight.

Though racking up strong breaks of 82, 97 and 130 to storm into a 3-1 lead, Ding did not keep up his streak after the interval and made several unforced errors, allowing Gunnell to close at 4-3.

Ding eventually sealed victory and will face Barry Hawkins, but his Chinese fans will appreciate that rapid improvement will be needed if Ding is to repeat his famous win here in 2005 when he beat Stephen Hendry in the final.

In other qualifiers, Jimmy White secured his professional status for next season, after beating Zheng Peng 5-2.

The Whirlwind was to face Stephen Lee in the next round but Lee's withdrawal sees White receive a bye into the last 16 -- the first time he has reached that stage of a ranking event since the 2005 Grand Prix.

From 2-1 down, the former UK and Masters champion came back strong to take four consecutive frames with a top break of 61.

"I nicked the first frame on the colors, otherwise it could have been different," admitted the 44-year-old Londoner, who has so failed to reach the knock-out stages of the season's other six ranking events.

"At my age you can play well one day, then badly the next. I've got three days now to practice at the hotel and make sure I play well on Thursday. I still love this game and I'll keep playing as long as I enjoy it."

Ding's compatriots also performed well with Liu Chuang, a 16-year-old from Liaoning Province, setting up a dream encounter with his hero Ronnie O'Sullivan by edging out Andy Hicks 5-4.

Joe Jogia lost 5-1 to Yu Delu, a 19-year-old from Shanxi Province who made strong breaks of 69 and 60.

Wins for five of the eight wild cards see a field of six Chinese players in the last 32.

(China Daily via worldsnooker.com, March 27, 2007)

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