'Ding might not make it back to the top,' says O'Sullivan

Last year's UK Championship winner Ronnie O'Sullivan believes more Chinese players should be targeting snooker silverware.
Last year's UK Championship winner Ronnie O'Sullivan believes more Chinese players should be targeting snooker silverware.

Five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan isn’t convinced former world number one Ding Junhui will ever reach his former glories – and believes the overall Chinese impact on snooker is behind schedule.

The 43-year-old breezed into the third round of the Betway UK Championship at the expense of Tian Pengfei 6-0, aiding his quest to defend his crown and lift the trophy for what would be a record eighth time.

But following the win – which saw a lacklustre performance from his opponent – the Rocket reiterated his belief that while there are several Chinese players on the tour, not enough of them regularly challenge for silverware.

And while O’Sullivan isn’t confident Ding – currently ranked 16th and in round two action against Michael Georgiou on Sunday – has effectively adapted to the current model of snooker, he insisted he is enjoying his own run so far in York and is hoping to challenge for glory once again.

“It’s a bit like a football player from the Spanish league coming over to England,” he said. “They’re good with the nice weather over there, but when it gets to January or February they’re not quite at it.

“I don’t know if he’ll ever make it back up there to be honest. He’s only young but there’s a lot of competition out there and if he doesn’t sort it out soon he could easily drop out of the top 40 or 50.

“I don’t think China have taken the sport on as they could do. They’re just faffing about really.

“It wasn’t happening for Tian today – he’s more than capable but I can only beat what’s in front of me and I just went out there and did my stuff.

“You have to assume it’s going to get tougher as the tournament goes on but it’s great to be in York, the tables are playing great and the further you get the more enjoyable it gets.”

Elsewhere, former world number 11 Mark King admitted less time out on the golf course has aided his prospects on the snooker table, as he cruised past Chinese youngster Lyu Haotian 6-1 to book his spot in the last 32 for the third year in a row.

He said: “In the last couple of months I’d got a bit of a golf bug and I was just not practicing. I kept getting beaten in the first round of tournaments and that’s why.

“In the last couple of weeks I’ve focused more on the snooker and I feel a lot better in myself. I now realise that what I did wasn’t good and I got my head down and it’s paying dividends.”

Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White.