UK Championship 2020: Ding Junhui says young Chinese players need to practise more

By Shabnam Younus-JewellBBC Sport
Betway UK Championship
Dates: 23 November to 6 December Venue: Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app from Saturday, 28 November.

China's Ding Junhui says he cannot see many young players from his country matching his success any time soon because they are not dedicated enough.

Ding, 33, has won 14 ranking titles and starts his UK Championship title defence in Milton Keynes on Thursday.

The world number 10 told BBC Sport: "You have to have a daily plan, a practice plan and they don't show that, at least from what I can see.

"I think when you're young, practice is more important than tournaments."

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said in 2016 that China would dominate snooker in the future, predicting that half of the top 16 players would be from the country.

However, Ding is only one of two Chinese players in the current top 16, along with 20-year-old Yan Bingtao.

Ding is trying to help the next generation of Chinese players, many of whom have moved to the UK to develop their snooker careers.

"At the moment, I don't see many following in my footsteps. Maybe in three or four years," he said.

"We can't put too much pressure on them because people have different lives. It's hard when we leave our homes, parents, our culture and there's nobody to look after you here. You have to look after yourself."

Ding became the pride of his snooker-loving nation in 2005 when he won the China Open just after his 18th birthday.

He won the first of three UK Championships later that year and claimed the Masters in 2011, leaving the World Championship as the only triple crown trophy missing from his collection.

The standard of young players generally in the game was harshly criticised by Ronnie O'Sullivan during this year's rescheduled World Championship in August. On his way to winning his sixth title in Sheffield, O'Sullivan said he would have to "lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50".

Earlier this year, Ding set up a snooker academy in Sheffield - where he is based - to help mentor young players.

"I give them advice and if they listen, they can do good," he said. "I just want to try to help the young ones.

"When they win, they enjoy it; when they lose, they don't want to talk. I just want to help open them to work harder and think about that, try to bring their talents out.

"There's a high quality of professionals playing there, keeping my form at a good level."

With the coronavirus pandemic resulting in the cancellation of the big-money events in China this year, Ding has not played in the country or seen his family there for months, but says they will be watching him on television along with his millions of fans.

"The only thing I can do is win tournaments, make them happy. There is a bit of pressure, even though there are no fans watching it live," he said.

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