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Ding Takes Centre Stage at Worlds
    2007-04-21 14:53:17     CRIENGLISH.com

China's prodigy Ding Junhui shoots a group of photos to promote his first World Championships. [File photo: China Foto Press]

China's Ding Junhui will get most of the attention when the world snooker championship gets underway at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre this weekend.
Ding, the first Chinese player to qualify for the tournament, faces twice former champion Ronnie O'Sullivan in the pick of the first-round ties.
When the pair clashed in the Masters final at Wembley in January, Ding was visibly shaken by the crowd's support for the popular Englishman as he went down to a 10-3 defeat.
While relishing the prospect of making his Crucible debut tomorrow, the 20-year-old Ding acknowledges he will have to be at his best if he is to progress beyond the opening round.
"Ronnie is technically the best player in the world and you can never give him a chance," he said. "It is not only tough to play against Ronnie, you have to play against the crowd too."
Last year's winner Graeme Dott begins the defence of his title with a match against English qualifier Ian McCulloch.
Dott, who won the title after beating Peter Ebdon 18-14 in the final, is the provisional world number one after his recent victory in the China Open.
Dott recognises that he faces a battle to retain the title.
"To win it once is great; to try and win it twice is going to be really hard," says the 29-year-old Scot.
"I know I can win it but I don't come here expecting to win it. I am good enough, but I could easily lose first round."
The draw for the first round paired two of the sport's elder statesmen, Steve Davis and John Parrott.
Davis, who won the last of his six world titles in 1989, has retained his place in the top 16 of the world rankings while 1991 champion Parrott had to qualify for the final stages.
World number one and seven-times champion Stephen Hendry starts with a match against David Gilbert.
Other former title winners in the tournament include British trio Shaun Murphy, John Higgins and Mark Williams and Ireland's Ken Doherty.
Also challenging are Australian Neil Robertson and Hong Kong's Marco Fu.
Robertson, who faces Ryan Day of Wales in the first round, has been in good form this season and is tipped to make good progress. Qualifier Fu faces a tricky match against Englishman Anthony Hamilton.
The bookmakers have made O'Sullivan the favourite to win the 17-day tournament.

(Source: Gulf Daily News)



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