Snooker: Ding rings closing bell for Hendry

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The Independent Online

Ding Jun Hui, the 19-year-old Chinese prodigy who has already won three world-ranking titles, ended Stephen Hendry's hopes of a seventh Masters title 11 years after his sixth with a 6-2 semi-final victory here. In the final, Ding will meet Ronnie O'Sullivan, who will be trying to win his third Masters title after overcoming Stephen Maguire.

Ding, the standard bearer of China's snooker revolution, is capable of becoming the youngest ever world champion at Sheffield in the spring and would be young enough to rob Hendry of this distinction next year.

Hendry, 38 last week, competes not only against a younger generation but his own past. His long potting is not the force it was and he is not quite the same unerring exploiter of clear-cut chances either. The most significant of the early frames was the fourth. Attempting to force the position, Hendry's green leapt into the air from a corner-pocket jaw and finished up on the floor.

After Ding cleared for 3-1, Hendry accounted for the fifth frame with 129 and was heading for 3-3 until a black from its spot eluded him on 55-0. With an air of inevitability, Ding cleared to pink with 64 and ran through the last two frames he needed with breaks of 128 and 61 to complete a highly impressive victory.

The evening semi-final produced innumerable unforced errors, mostly from Maguire. O'Sullivan managed breaks of 76, 88, 130 and 69 in his best style in prevailing 6-4. Unpredictable as ever, he appeared for a post-match press conference after being excused them for the week. "I was so embarrassed I thought everyone was laughing at me," he said with a touch of paranoia. "I didn't think Stephen was capable of playing as badly as that. I won't enjoy the final if I play like I did tonight."