Snooker's Judgement Day: Ding Junhui is hoping to continue his love affair with York
It was at the city’s Barbican centre in 2005 – 18 years ago – when the then 18-year-old rookie announced himself on the world stage by beating Steve Davis to win the UK Championship.
It was the first of three UK titles, having also won when the tournament was staged in Telford in 2009, before more Barbican success back in 2019.
Ding, pictured, has gone on to win everything in the sport – only the World Championship title has eluded him – has spent time as world No 1 and even runs the Ding Junhui Academy in his adopted hometown in the Steel City.
But the 36-year-old fell out of the world’s top 16 when compatriot Zhang Anda – one of the numerous Chinese players who have followed Ding by relocating to Sheffield to chase their snooker dreams – won the recent International Championship.
So while Anda, 31, is guaranteed a spot at the MrQ UK Championship in York, which starts on Saturday, Ding – who lost in the Barbican final to Mark Allen 12 months ago – has been forced to take a detour to the qualifiers in Leicester.
Ding beat Daniel Wells 6-4 in the penultimate qualifying round, but faces Robbie Williams today in snooker’s ‘Judgement Day’ if he wants to secure a Barbican return for the televised stages and the chance to claim a fourth UK title.
Against Wells, Ding trailed three times but breaks of 96, 89 and 64 secured safe passage.
“It was a close game, Daniel played well,” said Ding. “From 4-3 I knew I needed to make some breaks and put him under pressure.
“The fluke in the last frame was so lucky. The safety was difficult and I saw the long pot and thought I could get the white back to baulk, but I totally missed it and the two reds went in.
“It’s down to me to stay in the top 16, I have to win matches not rely on other players’ results. This is good match practice and if I make it to York maybe I’ll be ready.
“I love playing at the Barbican – even if I’m not playing well I always feel good there.
“I was really happy for Zhang to win the International. He tries so hard. It’s good to see more players from Asia winning titles.”
Leeds potter Oliver Lines, 28, suffered a 6-5 defeat to Joe O’Connor. Lines produced a late run, with breaks of 57and 73 before a 53 in the deciding frame. But O’Connor’s reply of 68 secured victory.
It was bad news too for Sheffield-based Ashley Hugill, 29, who missed out on a homecoming to York after losing to Stephen Maguire 6-4.
Yorkshire duo Sanderson Lam and David Grace – who like Lines, train at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds – also fell in qualifying.
Wu Yize top scored with 136 in a 6-2 defeat of Grace, while Lam lost in the deciding frame, 6-5 to Andy Lee.
Veteran Ken Doherty is through to Judgement Day after beating Chris Wakelin 6-4.
Elsewhere, Anthony Hamilton edged out Dominic Dale 6-3, Jamie Clarke beat Jordan Brown 6-4, while Ben Woollaston knocked out Cao Yupeng 6-4.