DING JUNHUI believes his Betway UK Championship triumph can be a catalyst for more glory in the near future, after scooping the main prize with victory over Stephen Maguire in Sunday’s showpiece.
The 32-year-old – who had previously won the tournament back in 2005 and 2009 – had arrived at the York Barbican without a ranking title since lifting the World Open trophy back in 2017, but rediscovered his best form throughout the competition.
An emphatic last-16 triumph over five-time world champion and defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan signalled his intent for a third UK Championship title, but a final showdown against the in-form Maguire promised a stern test.
But having led from the start of the best-of-19 encounter and seemingly gone on to cruise to a 10-6 victory at the first Triple Crown event of the season, Ding explained he believes he is now producing his best-ever snooker.
“I’m very proud of the way I’ve played at this tournament,” he said. “This one’s huge because it’s given me the belief that I can go on and win more tournaments now.
“It means everything because of the struggles I’ve gone through in the last two seasons. There was a lot of talk about whether I would ever win again and get back to my previous level.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this trophy. This is one of the biggest ones you can win and it’s the third time I’ve managed to get my hands on it, which is amazing.
“I’ve shown I’m a fighter, I’m a top 16 player and winning this title gives me a lot of confidence going forward.
“I think the form I’ve shown is up there with some of the best ever in my career. I’ve felt more in control of matches and even before today’s game I was confident I was going to win. I definitely think I’m a dangerous opponent now.”
Ding started the final strongly, racing into a 4-0 lead at the first mid-session interval having posted two tons and a 50 in the game’s early stages.
Maguire duly responded by claiming the match’s next three frames but the Chinese star took a 5-3 advantage into the evening session which ultimately proved too much for the Scot.
Having wrestled to within two frames of the lead at 8-6, Maguire was merely a spectator as Ding notched his tournament high break of 131, and a final-frame 108 to wrap up victory and the £200,000 winner’s prize.
Ding said: “I’m very proud of the way I played and it’s been an amazing couple of weeks.
“I’ve played fantastic snooker and I’ve found a lot of belief in myself. I can trust myself again now, and my head has been clean and strong throughout so I’m very happy.
“Stephen came back from 4-0 really well but my form was still there. He looked very strong at times but I just kept my mind clean and kept calm. I managed to forget my mistakes and take my chances.
“Mostly I just stuck to the same routines as always but it all just seemed to click into place and I’m delighted it’s gone right this time.”
For Maguire – who was aiming to reclaim a title he last got his hands on in 2004 – he simply admitted he was beaten by the better man, but was overall pleased with his display in Yorkshire having not reached a Triple Crown final since 2007.
He said: “I was really relaxed and I thought if I could get in I could do it, but it was really hard work out there. Every time he was up at the table he looked like making a century so I just have to hold my hands up.
“He was in a scoring mood and the way he finished off was fantastic. It just wasn’t meant to be for me.
“I didn’t quite settle well enough in the first session but I won’t make excuses. I really enjoyed being back out there in the final of a major competition again and I’ve played some good stuff while I’ve been here.”
*The UK Championship was live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White.