London (AFP) – Chinese snooker superstar Ding Junhui is one frame away from booking his place later on Monday in the quarter-finals of the world championships after dominating Anthony McGill 12-4 in their second round clash.
The 31-year-old, the losing finalist in 2016, is the new favourite after five-time champion “Rocket” Ronnie O’Sullivan and defending champion Mark Selby went out.
Ding showed little sign of the favourite’s tag handicapping him as he surged into a 8-0 lead — including two century breaks — in the first session but Scotsman McGill saved face by squaring the second of their eight frame sessions.
Unless he suffers an astonishing collapse, Ding will play Englishman Barry Hawkins in the last eight.
Hawkins beat Ding on his way to a surprise appearance in the 2013 world final where he lost to O’Sullivan but since then the 39-year-old has shown that was no fluke by reaching the last four on three occasions.
Ding lost to Selby both in the 2016 final and last year’s semi-finals and he could face serious competition for the title from another Scottish cuesman, John Higgins, who looks in sparkling form.
The 42-year-old quadruple world champion, who lost in last year’s final, demolished Englishman Jack Lisowski 13-1.
That was no mean feat given Lisowski — who only just avoided becoming the second player in the tournament’s history to fail to win a frame — had ousted 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham in the first round.
Higgins’s highest break was 146, one short of a clearance, and it was only the fourth time it had been done in world championships history.
He will next face the winner of the match between 2011 finalist Judd Trump and Ricky Walden, who are all square at 8-8.
“I felt for Jack a little bit,” said Higgins.
“It is the worst feeling in the world and the worst venue in the world when you are really struggling. The harder you try, the worse it gets. I could see what he was going through.”
Lisowski admitted the whitewash was playing on his mind, inhibiting his play which had been so impressive against Bingham.
“It wasn’t embarrassing, it was more frustrating and disappointing,” said Lisowski.
“I felt like it could change. Little things were going against me the whole game.”