Ding Junhui made snooker history last night when he defeated John Higgins 10-8 to win the UK Championship for the second time at the Telford International Centre.
The Chinese star claimed the £100,000 first prize and became the most successful Asian player in winning his fourth ranking event, surpassing the three titles achieved by Thailand's James Wattana. Ding follows in the footsteps of Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Mark Williams, Doug Mountjoy, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Higgins in securing the UK title for the second time.
Ding has admitted it took him a long time to recover from that hammering and he was in danger 12 months ago of slipping out of the top 16 in the world rankings. But he has recaptured his form this season, improved his general fitness by playing badminton and basketball, and this win has lifted him to No 6 in the provisional world rankings for the 2010-2011 season.
It was only his third win in ten attempts against Higgins, who had been involved in a marathon semi-final with Ronnie Sullivan which went to the final frame after he had squandered an 8-2 lead before coming out on top. And it looked as if he finally ran out of steam against Ding, who had Saturday off to recharge his batteries after defeating Stephen Maguire in the semi-finals. The pair shared the first eight frames during a marathon opening session which lasted three-and-a-quarter hours.
The opening frame of the evening was a scrappy affair. Ding looked to have handed current world champion Higgins a good opportunity after missing a red with the rest when leading 46-21. But Higgins tossed away the opportunity when he failed to convert a straight black off its spot. Higgins responded with a run of 42 in the next to draw level.
Ding's half-century put him 6-5 ahead but Higgins refused to allow the Chinese player to pull away thanks to a run of 91 in the final frame before the interval – at that point the best break of the final so far.
Higgins went in front for the first time with the aid of a 42 in frame 13 but it became 7-7 when Ding compiled a 74. It looked as if Higgins would win the 15th with the aid of a fluked red but, when leading 58-42, he missed an easy final brown – and Ding cleared the remaining colours.
Higgins was also in early control of the next with a 49 but he fluffed a comfortable red and Ding won a safety exchange before clearing the colours to move within one frame of victory. He had to put his celebrations on ice as Higgins responded with a 115 clearance – the first century of the match. But Ding crossed the finishing line in the next with a run of 75.