Ding: Selby is the man to beat
Ding Junhui believes world number one Mark Selby is the man to beat as he looks ahead to the defence of his BetVictor Welsh Open title.
- Related Content
Ding got the better of Selby in last year's final at the Newport Centre, winning 9-6 to claim his fifth ranking title.
But while China's top player has won just one Players Tour Championship event this season, Leicester's Selby has been the sport's dominant force in recent weeks, winning the UK Championship and the Masters.
"Mark is always very hard to beat because he never gives up and doesn't make many mistakes," said 25-year-old Ding.
"In the final last year I had to try my hardest on every shot. Mark is the best player at the moment but I would be happy to play him again, it's good to go up against the best."
Ding has been a trailblazer for snooker in Asia and there are now 10 Chinese players on the main tour, though none of them have won ranking titles.
A new generation is now emerging, led by Lu Haotian, who last year became the youngest ever world Under-21 champion at the age of 14, and Ding hopes that others can emulate his success.
"It's good for them to come to the UK and start a new life and see what they can do in snooker," said the two-time UK Champion.
"I hope they enjoy it and do well. But we shouldn't push them too hard, they are still young. I remember when I first came here, it was difficult."
Ding received good support from Chinese fans in Newport last year and hopes he'll get plenty of backing again this time.
"It's great to go to different places and see the Chinese fans supporting me," he said. "It means a lot to me to that they come to the venues to watch me play and cheer me on."
Ding's opening match gets the world ranking tournament underway on Monday with Selby, Judd Trump, John Higgins and local favourites Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens among those battling for the £50,000 top prize.