Ding Junhui is two matches away from beating Stephen Hendry’s 20-year-old record of winning three consecutive ranking titles as he prepares to face Graeme Dott in the semi-finals of the International Championship from China.
The Chinese sensation has finally shown the consistent brilliance that was predicted of him all the way back in 2002 when at the age of 15 he became the youngest player in history to claim the World under-21 Championship.
Ding captured his seventh ranking event when going all the way in the Shanghai Masters before becoming the first player since Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2003 to notch consecutive ranking tournaments at the Indian Open in the middle of October.
Dott, on the other hand, has been struggling for any consistent form before his week in Chengdu. His best effort this season has been a last-16 effort at a low-key Asian Tour competition and so his passage through to the semi-finals will have served to provide relief more than anything else.
Worryingly for the Scotsman the hallmark of Ding’s success over the past two months has been the high-quality of his play rather than just its usual effectiveness. In his final against Xiao Guodong he complied seven 50+ breaks including a century straight from the top-draw whilst his 5-0 victory over local hero Aditya Mehta in New Delhi spoke volumes about where the 26-year-old’s confidence levels are at the moment.
Dott has only been stretched once this week when having to survive a final frame encounter against Kurt Maflin.
And with a win over Liang Wenbo his strongest line of form it’s difficult to assess how easily he will be able to cope with such a marked rise in the ability of his opponent.
No-one on the planet is playing better snooker at present and with Ding brushing aside the likes of Matthew Stevens and Peter Ebdon in the previous rounds, Dott looks set to become another stepping stone to the history books for the national icon.
Odds of 10/11 that Ding wins -2.5 frames on the handicap market makes plenty of appeal now the format has stretched to best-of-17 frames.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim three £10 free bets when you bet £10.