World Snooker Championship 2013: Ding Junhui feels pressure

 

World Championship

  • Venue: The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
  • Date: 20 April-6 May

Coverage: Live on BBC Two BBC Two HD, Red Button and online on the BBC Sport website, mobile and BBC Sport app. Updates on BBC Radio 5 live

Ding Junhui says the pressure of being China's top player weighs heavily on him going into the World Championship.

Ding, ranked nine in the world, will begin his quest for a maiden Crucible title against Scot Alan McManus.

"When I play in China, people think I will win every tournament I play in. They say 'it is not impossible - you are human'. I wish I was an alien.

"But I like to be the first [Chinese player] to set the records. I want to play the best snooker," he said.

Ding's ranking event victories

Ding Junhui

2013: PTC Grand Final, v Neil Robertson 4-3

2012: Welsh Open, v Mark Selby 9-6

2009: UK Championship, v John Higgins 10-8

2006: N Ireland trophy, v Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-6

2005: UK Championship, v Steve Davis 10-6

2005: China Open, v Stephen Hendry 9-5

Ding, 26, has won the UK Championship and the Masters, widely regarded as the most prestigious titles in the sport outside of the World Championship.

But, while many expected him to become the first Asian player to capture snooker's most coveted crown, he is yet to reach a Crucible final.

A run to the semi-finals in 2011, when he was beaten 17-15 by Judd Trump, is the closest he has come.

His other five attempts since 2007 have seen him knocked out in the first round twice and the second round three times.

After a miserable campaign last year, when he lost 10-9 to Welshman Ryan Day in the first round, Ding feels more relaxed going into the final tournament of the season.

"I have pressure to win the World Championship and I need to play well to win it, but that is not for me to worry about this time," he told BBC Sport.

"I feel strong and not like the past few years when I have not felt strong enough. I will make it a hard game for everyone that plays me.

"I hope I can win the title this year; it would mean everything."

World Snooker currently stages five out of the 10 ranking events in China and, with a population of more than a billion people, the country is seen as a hotbed for the sport.

The 2012 World Championship at the Crucible saw a record number of Chinese players, with Liang Wenbo, Liu Chuang and Cao Yupeng, as well as Ding, participating at the main event. But this year Ding will be China's sole representative.

Top-ranked Chinese players

  • Ding Junhui - nine
  • Liang Wenbo - 34
  • Xiao Guodong - 38
  • Liu Chuang - 52
  • Yu Delu - 53
  • Cao Yupeng - 65

Keith Warren, director of the Star Snooker Academy in Sheffield, where Ding and other Far Eastern players practice, feels last year's Chinese qualifiers made a mistake in moving away from the city.

"We specialise in looking after overseas players," Warren told BBC Sport. "We find them a place to stay, there is a massive Chinese community in Sheffield and they feel at home.

"Apart from Ding, all these players moved away to live in Gloucester to practice at the South West Snooker Academy, having been paid by them.

"Maybe it is different for them over there, but it is no coincidence they have not been as successful this season."

However, Ding says the future remains bright for emerging Chinese players.

"When you play with good players every day, you will come to the same level as them. It gives you confidence to improve," he explained.

"But it is a new life for them to start. There is nobody to look after them.

"Their parents are not there, so the players may miss home, get a little sad when they lose a match. They need to learn quickly and hopefully enjoy it.

"The young players that are coming through will get better and better."