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Snooker: Ding eyes world title as O'Sullivan advances

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

China's Ding Junhui said he felt ready to win the snooker World Championship after booking a quarter-final place with a 13-9 win over Mark King at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on Monday.

No Chinese player has yet won the World Championship, but former Masters and UK champion Ding has long been tipped as the man most likely to make that breakthrough and take snooker's top title to a country where the sport has been enjoying a boom for several years.

Ding was 6-2 behind at one stage, only to stun King in a match where the Chinese master cueman reeled off four centuries and a further seven breaks over 50.

For Sheffield-based Ding, who will face another Englishman in Barry Hawkins in a last-eight clash starting Tuesday, the pressure of playing at the Crucible, in northern England, is nothing like as much of a strain as performing in front of an adoring home crowd.

Yet his record at the Crucible is poor, as in six previous visits he has only gone beyond the second round once, in 2011 when he lost to Judd Trump in the semi-finals.

However, he said he is now coming to terms with the Crucible.

"I find it easier to play here in Sheffield than to play in China," Ding said.

"There are so many things that happen around me in tournaments in China, but you need to be able to relax, concentrate, practice and get ready for your matches. Then you can win. But if you can't relax, then you have no chance."

An admiring King said that on this form, not even Ronnie O'Sullivan, the reigning world champion, could cope with Ding, who won seven out of eight frames in the middle session.

"He was on a different planet and when he's hitting the ball like that I don't think anyone can get near him, even Ronnie O'Sullivan," King said.

O'Sullivan, who had been in self-imposed exile since claiming his fourth world crown, maintained his title defence with a 13-8 win over Ali Carter in a repeat of last year's final.

It was the 13th win for the "Rocket" in as many matches against Carter, and saw him go through to another all-English tie, with Stuart Bingham.

O'Sullivan, who led 9-7 overnight, said he felt jaded in comparison to 12 months ago.

"I'm pleased I came through it, but it's not going to get any easier now," said O'Sullivan, bidding to become the first player since Stephen Hendry in 1996 to retain the title.

"I feel a lot more tired and jaded than I did coming into this tournament last year.

"Mentally it wasn't taxing, but whatever I do people think I've got an advantage. Whatever I say, everyone thinks it's all about me, all about Ronnie.

"Last year I felt unplayable. Last year I was playing some shots and thinking 'Wow, I've got them here'. I knew when I got in I was going to clear the table. And I knew I was just too strong physically, mentally, I just felt invincible."

Carter said whether O'Sullivan won back-to-back world titles would depend on the brilliant potter's often wayward temperament.

"If his head doesn't fall off, yes he will," Carter said. "But we all know if his head falls off anyone can beat him.

"If he plays like he did today, nobody can beat him.

"I think he's done the right thing having a year off; in fact I might do that next year. Why not?"

Bingham beat Mark Davis 13-10, while Ricky Walden defeated Robert Milkins, who knocked out Australian former champion Neil Robertson 13-11 to seal a last-eight tie with Welsh qualifier Michael White.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130429/snooker-ding-eyes-world-title-osullivan-advances