Ding Junhui determined to end his Masters hoodoo at Alexandra Palace
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
Chinese star Ding Junhui has his sights set on prising the prestigious Dafabet Masters title away from defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan at Alexandra Palace next week.
Ding, who held the world number one spot for a short spell before conceding it to Australian Neil Robertson, is keen to regain the crown he won back in 2011 against Marco Fu at Wembley Arena.
The cueman has yet to win a match in the £600,000 tournament since it moved to Ally Pally after a 33-year spell at the Wembley venue – but he is determined to put that right when he faces the ‘Fen Potter’ Joe Perry in the first round on Wednesday.
“I enjoyed playing at Wembley and I won the tournament there,” said Ding. “So when it moved to Alexandra Palace it was a new challenge for me.”
In last year’s tournament Ding, a semi-finalist at this season’s Shanghai Masters and Champions of Champions events, suffered a 6-4 defeat to former world champion Shaun Murphy.
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“So far it has not been a good venue for me, but that’s nothing to do with the atmosphere as I really like it,” he continued.
“I just haven’t played well enough in the last three years and I’ve had some tough opponents.
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“It was great to be world number one, even if it was only for a moment. It gives me a lot of confidence to know that I can get to the very top.
“I’m number two now, but I have a chance to get back to number one over the next few tournaments and I am trying hard.”
The vastly popular O’Sullivan begins his defence of the title that he has won five times on Tuesday against world number nine Ricky Walden, who earlier in the season claimed the International Championship in Chengdu, China.
Last year the ‘Rocket’ met Walden in the quarter-finals and scored a record 556 unanswered points before going on to beat reigning world champion Mark Selby 10-4 in the final.
And O’Sullivan admits he is looking forward to challenging for title number six at Ally Pally, saying: “I can’t wait for the Masters now. It has been a fantastic calendar year for me and a great start to this season.”
One player who hopes to meet O’Sullivan in a final for the third time this season is Judd Trump.
The 25-year-old world number seven fell to O’Sullivan in both the Champions of Champions and UK Championship, but is desperate to have another shot at him in a Masters final.
“I’m getting closer and I’ve lost the last two of the biggest tournaments to the best player ever,” said Trump.
“I’m looking forward to the Masters. I’m in good form and hopefully we can meet in the final again.”
But Trump will have to first get past last year’s semi-finalist, Glaswegian livewire Stephen Maguire, on Monday.
The stand-out tie of the first round kicks off the tournament on Sunday at 1pm as Selby, a three-time Masters winner, and Murphy go head to head on the green baize, while Stuart Bingham’s match against Fu is scheduled to get under way at 7pm.
Tickets for all sessions are available by calling 0871 620 7052 or, alternatively, visit Alexandra Palace Box Office in person.