Home / 2007 World Snooker / Latest News Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Birthday Boy Wants Open Present
Adjust font size:

Ding Junhui is set to stir up another snooker frenzy when he launches his fight for the China Open title in Beijing on his 20th birthday.

But defending champion Mark Williams and a host of top players including Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan will not be making the trip just to wish him happy returns.

The world's top 16 players will all be present at the tournament which runs from March 26 to April 1, but for the growing army of local fans Ding will be the center of attention.

"Winning a pro tour title on my home court on my birthday would be very exciting. I can't imagine a better birthday present," Ding told Chinese Central Television (CCTV). "But I just want to focus on my game and not think too far ahead. The China Open is where I started, it's always a very special tournament for me."

The sport is booming in China on the back of wonderkid Ding's performances. He announced his arrival at snooker's top table by defeating Hendry in the 2005 China Open final in front of a television audience of 110 million.

The win elevated Ding to the status of national hero, placing him alongside NBA center Yao Ming and record-holding hurdler Liu Xiang in the popularity stakes and giving the sport an invaluable lift in China's potentially-mega market.

The 2007 season saw Ding outclass Hendry again en route to the final of the Masters in January, a week after he replaced opponent O'Sullivan as the youngest player to register a televised maximum 147 break.

He became the first Asian player to reach the final of the Masters, the most prestigious event in the sport, but looked on in tears as "Rocket" Ronnie O'Sullivan demolished him 10-3 in a snooker masterclass.

Chinese fans were so captivated by Ding's emotional exit that national broadcaster CCTV was forced to reschedule programming to provide live coverage of the final three frames.

Ding's home matches in 2006 were the most-watched sports events on CCTV last year.

"I cannot wait to watch him in Beijing," said Wang Meng, a 21-year-old snooker fan from the capital. "He has made snooker one of the most popular sports amongst Chinese youngsters. It's awesome."

Ding will be joined by eight Chinese wildcards in the tournament, which takes place at Beijing University Students Stadium.

Mike Ganley, World Snooker Tournament Director, acknowledged that China was the engine powering the sport's future.

"I am sure the Chinese tournament has helped to drive the dramatic growth in the popularity of snooker worldwide," he said at a press conference yesterday. "China is such a key area for snooker and we are delighted to have capitalized on the great success of the last two years' tournaments in Beijing.

"I am fully confident that this year's tournament will be even better than the previous two."

World Snooker has already set up a Chinese language website and, based on the success of the China Open, has signed an eight-year contract with China's Multiple Administrative Centre of the State General Sports Administration, the longest contract the snooker governing body has ever inked.

"The snooker environment is improving year by year," said Liu Rongyao, snooker director of the Centre. "Fans and organizers learned a lot from the past two events, and the standard of the tournament is getting higher.

"We want to build the China Open into the most successful tournament in Beijing. Ding's latest success will take the sport to another level, so I'm confident the upcoming China Open will once again become a hot topic for the fans."

(China Daily March 22, 2007)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read

Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Chinese Table to Sparkle at World Snooker Tour
- Snooker: Welsh Woes for Ding Junhui
- World Snooker China Open (Mar.25-Apr.1)
- Ding Junhui Prepares for World Championships
- Two Century Breaks Fire Ding to Worlds
Most Viewed >>