SUBSCRIBE TO CHINA
On September 26, 2016, 29-year-old Ding Junhui won the Snooker Shanghai Masters for the second time by beating Mark Selby 10-6. Previously winning the event in 2013, Ding became the first-ever player to take the Shanghai Masters twice.
The title was Ding’s first in 30 months and 12th of his professional career. The victory also brought him even with Australian Neil Robertson in total tournament wins. Only five players in the history of the sport have won more.
At the 2005 China Open, a young Chinese boy surprised the snooker world by beating legendary seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry in the final. Because of the 18-year-old rookie Ding Junhui, an estimated 120 million Chinese people, as many as the combined population of the U.K. and France, watched the game on TV. The teenager continued to shake up the sport later that year by defeating Steve Davis to win the U.K. Championship and become the first player from outside the U.K. to win the tournament. In many ways, Ding was an overnight sensation for the Chinese public.
For a long time, media outlets from both China and beyond used “prodigy” to describe Ding. Born in Yixing, a small city in Jiangsu Province, in 1987, Ding’s unusual snooker gift was discovered by his billiards-obsessed father when the boy was only eight. Some media outlets recounted a story of his father leaving a game with friends to use the restroom, and his son running the table before he returned.
Soon, no one in his hometown could even compete with Ding. Realizing that their child would benefit greatly from systematic billiards training, Ding’s parents took the boy to Dongguan, Guangdong Province, where China’s national snooker team trains. To pay for Ding’s training in Guangdong, the family eventually sold their home in Yixing. “They didn’t tell me they were selling the house at the time, so I didn’t feel the pressure,” Ding revealed. “But playing with the outstanding players in Guangdong helped me greatly. My skills progressed rapidly.”
At 13, Ding won his first award by finishing third in an Asian Invitational Tournament. In 2002, he amazed the snooker world by winning both the Asian under-21 and senior titles and the World Under-21 Championship in Latvia. By the age of 15, Ding had been already unbeatable in China, winning various national and regional snooker youth championships and making waves on the Asian circuit.
Before Ding’s major victories at the China Open and U.K. Championship in 2005, plenty of insiders had already noticed the emerging star.