Rejuvenated Ding Junhui can keep close tabs on O'Sullivan
Rocket favourite for what could be a cracking final
Final: Ronnie O'Sullivan v Ding Junhui
ITV4, 1pm and 7pm Sunday
Ding Junhui confirmed he was back to his focused best when seeing off world champion Mark Selby in a gruelling Ladbrokes World Grand Prix semi-final and the Chinese number one should offer stiff resistance in his final showdown with nemesis Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Casual snooker fans may have been hoping to see Selby and O’Sullivan continue their rivalry in a final but Ding’s delightful breakbuilding may make for a more exciting tussle and this could turn into an epic encounter.
Racing Post Sport followers are in clover, with snooker expert Dave Clark having advised punters to back O’Sullivan at 100-30 and Ding each-way at 16-1 prior to the event, but there’s still value to be had and dismissing the rejuvenated Chinese sensation could be dangerous.
O’Sullivan has dominated their rivalry - he has lost just four of their 17 meetings - but Ding defeated the Rocket 13-10 in the quarter-finals of last year’s Betfred World Championship.
Ding’s scintillating victory in Sheffield last year showed he can match O'Sullivan in a longer contest and the best way to put pressure on him is to win frames in one visit.
A fiery Stephen Maguire made the Rocket pull out all the stops in the last four. The Scot opened with a century and raced into a 3-1 lead before succumbing to a 6-4 defeat.
But Ding’s chances are far more clearcut and given an opportunity he is likely to take it. The Chinese number one’s attitude has often been questioned, some saying he has looked uninterested in recent times, but he has been sharp this week and has made centuries in all four of his victories.
Bet365 go 6-4 about Ding mustering two century breaks and a clash with a fluent O’Sullivan, combined with the longer best-of-19 format, should bring plenty of scoring opportunities.
Ding showed character to win 6-5 in his semi-final with Selby, given the battle clearly played to the Jester from Leicester's strengths. However, all the high-scoring frames went Ding’s way - he made breaks of 104, 94, 91 and 83 - and the Chinese number one should be much better suited to facing O’Sullivan.
The Rocket is the right favourite but punters shouldn’t expect one-way traffic and backing the match to go over 16.5 frames at odds-against looks like a value bet.
Over 16.5 frames
2pts 21-20 Hills
D Junhui over 1.5 centuries
1pt 6-4 bet365