Snooker: Ding's maximum record sets up Ebdon encounter

The Chinese player Ding Junhui made sure this year's Masters started in sparkling fashion yesterday.

The 19-year-old prodigy gave the Wembley Arena crowd plenty to savour with a maximum 147 break on the first day of the tournament, becoming the youngest player to score a maximum 147 break live on television by beating the record set by Ronnie O'Sullivan by almost three years.

It was only the second maximum clearance in Masters history, with Kirk Stevens the last player to have achieved the difficult feat, 23 years ago. In 1984, Stevens made a 147 break in a 6-4 semi-final defeat against Jimmy White at the Wembley Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Ding will take £35,000 in prize-money unless the break is matched at the event, which concludes next Sunday.

He stands to win £10,000 for the highest break prize and £25,000 for the maximum break prize.

O'Sullivan, the dual world champion, was 22 years and five months old when he recorded a televised 147 at the 1997 World Championship at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.

Three-times a ranking event winner, Shanghai's Ding, who practises at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield, compiled two more centuries in a comfortable 6-3 first-round win over Nottingham's Anthony Hamilton who, like him, isa wildcard entry to this event. Ding will meet his good friend Peter Ebdon, last month's UK Championship winner, in the second round tomorrow night.

"I'm feeling really special to be the second player in Masters history to make a 147 break," Ding said. "I didn't realise I was the youngest and I am very happy to go into the record books for that. When I got to the last red ball I was nervous, and on the final black, so I was very happy to pot that."

Looking ahead to his meeting with Ebdon, who beat him 9-5 in the UK Championship quarter-finals, Ding said: "I hope we will give the audience a very good game. I think I have a good chance and I will be trying my best. I never thought about winning this tournament before because everyone here are very professional players - and I hope now I can play at my best to have a chance."

Hamilton started the better of the two players with a break of 59 to take the opening frame of the best-of-11 match. But Ding hit back with runs of 50 and 61 to level matters. He won the next frame with a break of 78 and then edged a scrappy fourth frame for a 3-1 interval advantage.

Hamilton hit back following the resumption with a 72 run, before Ding demonstrated the talent at his disposal. A 105 break made it 4-2, before his special maximum, which came in little over 14 minutes, made it 5-2 and put him one frame away from victory.

Hamilton, a beaten semi-finalist at last season's Welsh Open, pocketed a 103 run to reduce his arrears, but it only delayed the inevitable as Ding, with a break of 108, made sure there were four centuries in consecutive frames and took a place in the next round of this £432,000 event.

White slipped to a 6-1 first-round defeat by Matthew Stevens.

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