Ding shows his class against out-of-sorts Clarke


A ruthless Ding Junhui dispatched Jamie Clarke in a one-sided match at the York Barbican on Thursday

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Image by Jack Bleksley

By Jack Bleksley

Coming off the back of an impressive victory against fellow countryman Mark Williams, Jamie Clarke was confident in his pre-match interviews. Ding Junhui did all he could to kill any momentum that Clarke may have picked up from his win on Monday.

Clarke looked nervous early on in the match, missing pots that he really shouldn’t have. Early on in the first frame Ding’s miss cue seemed to have let the underdog off the hook. Clarke didn’t take advantage of the mistake, though, as he failed to pot a straightforward red again. Ding punished Clarke as he went on to take the first frame with a 99 break.

The second frame was a lot tighter, however, and it looked like Clarke may have got over his early woes. Two successful snookers from Clarke put Ding in a difficult position. With neither player able to reel off any sizeable break, at 43-42 Clarke potted the cue ball, opening up the table for his opponent who went on to win the frame 43-64. Another mistake from the Welshman left him 2-0 down early on.

There seemed to be no stopping Ding as he effortlessly danced around the table. All Clarke could do was watch. Standing on a break of 87, Ding looked set for his first century of the match and third of the tournament until a rare error as he missed the red and potted the pink ball. Ding took the third frame 6-87.

Ding would have to wait until the fourth frame to score his first, and only, century of the match. A 118 break after a stuttered start from both players. Clarke had already shown glimpses of his class early on in this match but had failed to get any consistency. This would continue in the fourth frame as a beautifully long range pot was followed by a miss on a straightforward yellow. It looked like it just wasn’t to be for Clarke as he now found himself 4-0 down going into the break.

It seemed like the break had served Clarke well as he won the fifth frame, coming back from Ding’s 55 break with a 55 break of his own, taking the frame 72-55. Maybe Clarke was finally coming into this game.

The sixth frame turned out to be the most interesting one of the match. A poor safety shot from Ding left Clarke with a chance on a tricky but pottable red. The frustration was evident as Ding slumped back into his chair, arms folded. Ding wanted this match over and done with as soon as possible. Clarke took his chance and went on to manage a break of 18 until another costly mistake let Ding back into the frame. The rest of the frame wasn’t plain sailing for the 3 three-time UK Championship winner, however. On 67, Ding left a red on the lip of the pocket. Clarke’s afternoon was summed up as a poor safety meant Ding could take the frame 26-78.

Ding started the seventh frame with a poor break, leaving Clarke with an opportunity that he grabbed with both hands. After a failed safety attempt from Ding, Clarke missed a tough red. In the blink of an eye Ding, with some quality cueing, rattled off a quick fire break of 74 to win the match 6-1.

Clarke looked far off his best today, something you can’t do when playing against someone of Ding Junhui’s ilk. Getting to the second round is still a good result for the 28-year-old. A good start for his season; he’ll hope to push on throughout the rest of the year.

For Ding, a quality win that takes him into the quarter final. He’ll face seven-time winner, Ronnie O’Sullivan. When asked about his thoughts on a match with Ronnie, Ding said, “It will be a great match to play Ronnie.” A man of few words, he looked very comfortable in York yesterday. A huge challenge awaits him today against the world number one. O’Sullivan will punish him if he makes the same mistakes that he made against Clarke. Ronnie will be favourite but that won’t phase Ding, who is more than capable of causing an upset this afternoon.