Former champions Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui face off in the Last 32 of the 2022 Welsh Open in Newport on Thursday.
The decorated duo go head-to-head in a mouth-watering Third Round tie as they bid to reach the business end of the prestigious ranking major.
Both players know precisely what it takes to clinch this title, with O’Sullivan having done so on four occasions, while Ding triumphed exactly a decade ago.
Their respective form coming into the contest, however, is somewhat contrasting, with O’Sullivan enjoying a superb spell of consistently which has seen him reach the latter stages of multiple tournaments this season, while Ding has gone 18 months without reaching a ranking Quarter-Final.
O’Sullivan made a swift return to action on Tuesday less than 48 hours after his deciding frame defeat to Fan Zhengyi in the final of the European Masters.
The Rocket, who continues to close in on the world number one spot, has already claimed the World Grand Prix title this season and has reached at least the Quarter-Final stage in six of his seven ranking tournament appearances this season.
The 46-year-old is now bidding for a first Welsh Open title since 2016 and has fond memories of facing Ding in this competition, notably making a 147 break in the last frame of the 2014 final to clinch the title.
An astonishing barren spell for Ding has seen him fail to qualify or feature in a ranking event this year to date and his world ranking has plummeted to 32 as a result.
The 14-time ranking event winner, who last tasted success at the 2019 UK Championship, is now the fifth highest ranked Chinese player on the circuit and will be determined to restore his former glories amid the recent rise of his young compatriots.
A statement of intent from Ding saw him defeat Michael Holt 4-1 in the opening round with three century breaks to his name, while O’Sullivan has seen off James Cahill and Lukas Kleckers for the combined loss of just two frames.
O’Sullivan has won each of their last five meetings since Ding downed ‘The Rocket’ en route to UK Championship glory in 2019.
Overall, O’Sullivan has 18 wins to Ding’s five dating back to 2005, with each of the last three having come in deciding frames.
Their latest show-down gets under way from 1pm GMT and will be contested over the best of seven frames.
Either former Masters Champion Yan Bingtao or Ricky Walden will await the winner in the Last 16 on Thursday evening.
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