One of the things that makes sport great, but often shows up its crueller side, is that the best players and teams do not always get to win. Sporting history is littered with such examples: The great Brazil side of the 1982 World Cup; Dan Marino’s failure to win a Super Bowl; Ken Rosewall not getting a Wimbledon title. Indeed, Snooker has the most telling example of all in Jimmy “Whirlwind” White’s heart-breaking run of six World Championship Final defeats.
Snooker’s ‘rising-young-star’ is now 30-years-old
But what of Ding Junhui? It is now 14 years since the Chinese superstar announced himself to the world as a precociously-talented 16-year-old at the 2004 Masters. Back then, everyone assumed it was a case of when and not if he would win a World Championship. However, despite snooker having plenty of ‘long-lived’ players, some are suggesting that time is running out for Ding.
He has come close to winning snooker’s biggest prize, with a couple of semi-final defeats and the loss to Mark Selby in the 2016 Final. But as a whole, one could say objectively that Ding has underperformed when it comes to playing at the Crucible down the years. Away from Sheffield, he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world. To the question then: is Ding the best player not to have landed a Snooker World Championship?
Few events in sport can match White’s series of defeats
Obviously, the first person that springs to mind is the aforementioned Jimmy White. Those six Final defeats would certainly suggest that he is the greatest performer at the World Championships not to have won. Ding, however, holds 13 ranking events, putting him tied-fifth overall with Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, both of whom have won the World Championship. White, with 10 ranking events, joins Ding as the only two players in the top ten list not to have won the World Title.
Perhaps it is pointless to compare players from two very different eras of snooker. But the fact remains that both White and Ding should have won at least one World Championship in the past. For White, that ship has sailed. But, for the 30-year-old Ding, there should be some opportunities left to right the wrong.
Ding among Word Championship betting favourites once again
The 2018 World Championships will be Ding’s 12th, and he still very much at the very top of the game, so there is no point in writing his snooker obituary just yet. Bet365 have ranked him as 11/1 fourth-favourite for the event, behind O’Sullivan (7/2), Selby (7/2) and Trump (6/1). The tournament looks really stacked though, with the likes of Robertson (12/1), Higgins (12/1) and Allen (22/1) fancying their chances, so check out Snooker World Championship betting tips, offers and free bets before you part with your money.
It seems that Ding’s greatest opponent at the Crucible will be himself once again. His talent richly deserves a World Title, but will the application get in the way once again? If Ding needs some inspiration he should perhaps look not to snooker, but another sport entirely. Sergio Garcia was widely regarded as the best golfer never to win a Major in his career. Like Ding, there were near misses and ‘chokes’, until it got to the point that nobody thought that Garcia would ever break his duck. Beyond hope and expectation, he won the Masters as a 37-year-old at Augusta last year. Ding should take note.