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Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2007, 22:59 GMT
China in Ding's hands
By Saj Chowdhury

Ding Junhui lifts up the 2005 UK Championship trophy
Ding wins the 2005 UK Championship

American comedian Chris Rock once quipped: "You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy and the best golfer is a black guy."

He was of course referring to sporting icon Tiger Woods and the slick-tongued Eminem.

Rock probably doesn't follow snooker too closely, but who would have thought 10 years ago that a Chinese player would be hailed as today's most promising talent.

That honour has befallen 19-year-old Ding Junhui, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise since turning professional four years ago.

The teenager has already won three ranking events, including the UK Championship, compiled a televised 147 maximum and has just finished as runner-up at the Masters.

Wembley champion Ronnie O'Sullivan believes he will be a "multiple world champion".

606: DEBATE
Saj Chowdhury - BBC Sport

Seven-times Crucible winner Stephen Hendry is adamant the provisionally ranked world number five will be a "top four player for the next 10 to 15 years".

High praise and great faith from two of the sport's biggest stars, considering Ding is still a bairn in the game.

His impact in snooker has been massive but in Britain's sporting sphere he does not get the same column inches as Wayne Rooney, Amir Khan and Andrew Murray.

However, on home territory, Ding's status is almost godlike.

"He's already a legend in China," sports journalist Ma Bang Jie of the Xinhua Agency told BBC Sport.

"The sponsors are competing to sign him, millions watch him when he's playing and as a result many are taking up the game.

Ding Junhui signs autographs
He had to borrow a lot of money to help his son

Journalist Ma Bang Jie on Ding's father

"Snooker in the past was dominated by British and Irish players, so Ding is treated as a sports icon for the impact he has made."

Ma Bang added that the player from Jiangsu Province has been placed in the same league as China's NBA export Yao Ming and 110m hurdles record holder Liu Xiang.

But he added that Ding's rise to the top was not aided by the government funding and the training academies his compatriots benefited from.

"Ding was brought up differently to the other stars," said Ma Bang.

"His father financed his career in the beginning. He had to borrow a lot of money to help his son."

But that sacrifice has now paid dividends and with fellow Chinese players Liu Song and Liang Wenbo also in the snooker top 96, Ma Beng forsees a bright future for his countrymen in the sport.

"There are a lot of kids back in China trying to do what Ding has done," he said.

"Parents are investing heavily in their children's snooker development. It's easy to find somewhere to train because there are a lot of billiard halls. And they certainly train a lot.

"We have a strong work ethic in our country so I think we will see more players from China make a big name for themselves in snooker in the years to come."



SEE ALSO
Ding compiles maximum at Masters
14 Jan 07 |  Snooker
Ding secures Asian Games treble
07 Dec 06 |  Snooker
Ding beats Davis to win UK title
18 Dec 05 |  Snooker
Could Ding be snooker's saviour?
04 Apr 05 |  Snooker


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