Home SPORTS UK Snooker Championship 2023: Ding Junhui beats Mark Allen 6-5

UK Snooker Championship 2023: Ding Junhui beats Mark Allen 6-5

Ding Junhui is a three-time UK champion
Venue: Barbican Centre, York Dates: Saturday, 25 November – Sunday, 3 December
BBC coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Red Button and BBC iPlayer, as well as the BBC Sport website and mobile app

Ding Junhui considered giving Mark Allen “a walkover” because he was feeling ill before fighting back to beat the defending champion 6-5 in the first round of the UK Championship.

The result means Ding exacts a measure of revenge for last year’s final, when the Northern Irishman overturned a 6-1 deficit to triumph 10-7 in York.

Breaks of 67, 106 and 60 had helped Allen establish a commanding 4-2 lead.

However, China’s Ding took four of the last five frames to seal his victory.

“I didn’t put any pressure on myself because I wasn’t feeling so good,” three-time UK champion Ding told BBC Sport.

“I’ve seen the doctor and taken some tablets. This morning I felt like I couldn’t stand and maybe wouldn’t be able to play. I felt a bit better before the match. I was thinking I might have to give him a walkover.”

Ding will play Tom Ford in round two after the English seed completed a remarkable recovery from 5-1 down to defeat Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham.

Saengkham made three century breaks to initially dominate a high-scoring encounter but crucially missed several opportunities to wrap up the win. And that allowed 40-year-old Ford to snatch victory and enhance his chances of appearing in January’s Masters for the first time in his career.

Mark Williams also advanced, with a 6-4 victory over Fan Zhengyi. He will meet Jamie Clarke next after the world number 60 stunned England’s Kyren Wilson in another match to go the distance.

Wilson ranked 52 places above Clarke, let a 5-1 lead and a 50-point advantage in the seventh frame slip as the Welshman secured a meeting with his compatriot in the last 16.

Two-time winner Williams was not at his fluent best against his 22-year-old Chinese opponent – whose break of 130 in penultimate frame was the highlight of the match – but his greater experience told.

“It was a good win for me. I didn’t play too well and am just happy to get through,” Williams said.

“This tournament hasn’t really been good for me in the last few years. Once during Covid I fell asleep live on TV, then last year I had to run out every couple of frames. I’ll go home in between matches this time and try to change the jinx of the UK.”

Ding overcomes the odds in Allen win

While Ding has not won a ranking title since winning at the Barbican Centre four years ago, the manner of his comeback against world number four Allen, despite feeling unwell, underlined his enduring class.

The 36-year-old, who had to come through qualifying after sliding just outside of the world’s top 16, appeared dejected as he sat in his chair trailing Allen 4-2.

And with Allen showing the signs of the form that helped him to a thumping 10-3 win over Judd Trump in the final of the Champion of Champions, the odds on a Ding comeback looked remote.

However, a break of 79 reduced his arrears to 4-3 and Ding edged 5-4 ahead as he twice capitalised on errors to compile a 63 and a wonderful clearance of 70.

A missed black in the next allowed Allen to make a 70 of his own and set up a final-frame decider but Ding wrapped up the match with a sublime century.

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