Ronnie O’Sullivan hailed “class act” Ding Junhui after he was whitewashed 6-0 by his good friend in the UK Championship quarter-finals.
The seven-time champion was helpless as the Chinese ace produced a vintage display, storming through to the last four at the York Barbican with breaks of 131, 94, 88 and 87.
O’Sullivan had won each of the seven previous meetings between the players, but he has now lost both of their UK Championship showdowns having also been beaten 6-4 by Ding in the last 16 three years ago.
Nevertheless, the Rocket full of praise for the three-time champion, who he is hoping will subsequently land a fourth crown on Sunday.
“He played fantastically well; it’s brilliant to see Ding playing like that,” he told BBC.
“I wish he could play more like that; he’s so good for the game. He’s a class act, I’d like to see him go and win it now.
“He’s too good a player to be wherever he is [in the rankings] at the moment. I think he struggles at some of these venues being stuck on the outside tables with no-one watching him.
“You can see the real class players like an occasion like that to bring the best out of them. He’s just proved there what a fantastic player he is.
“I knew that as soon as someone played well against me, they would probably beat me, so I’m not surprised. I can’t complain.”
— Live Snooker (@Livesnooker) November 18, 2022
Although he required four chances, Ding capitalised on his opponent’s lacklustre start to win the opening frame, before doubling his lead in a tight second.
But it was one-way traffic thereon; O’Sullivan scoring just four points as the clinical Dragon roared through with breaks of 88, 94 and 87, before sealing the whitewash with a superb 131 clearance.
“It surprised me,” Ding said. “In the end, I played very well. After two frames, I kept reminding myself of the matches I played in the two rounds before, and to keep scoring well and focus on shots.
“I’ve been working hard in these two years. I just keep believing in myself.”
The trailblazer for the subsequent surge of Chinese talent in the higher echelons of snooker, world number 38 Ding is now officially the eighth-best player from his nation.
Compatriot Zhao Xintong broke through by lifting this trophy in York last year, and the 35-year-old admitted he was spurred on by the Cyclone’s success.
“It’s pushed me to work harder and give myself more chances to win,” he added. “I keep trying and, at one point, I will play good for one week.”