Snooker: O'Sullivan loses to 'better man' Ding
PUBLISHED: 13:50 06 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:50 06 December 2019
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Five-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan admitted the better man won on the day after crashing out of the Betway UK Championship at the hands of Ding Junhui.
O'Sullivan - celebrating his 44th birthday at the York Barbican - had dropped just two frames en route to the fourth round, but found himself 3-0 down against the two-time champion without even potting a ball.
But he rallied to notch four of the next five frames and level terms, before Ding capitalised on a crucial missed red in the ninth to win 6-4 and book his quarter-final spot.
But despite seeing his attempt to defend his crown - and lift the UK Championship trophy for a record eighth time - come to an end, O'Sullivan conceded he simply didn't deserve to progress.
"I'm just pleased to have been able to get four frames out of the wreckage," he said. "It could have easily been a mauling.
"I did well to get it back to 4-4 and had a few chances but I didn't take them at vital times. It's swings and roundabouts out there - you can't pot everything all the time.
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"Ding played a great match, he found his form when he needed it and he deserved his victory. He still missed some balls but I didn't make it particularly difficult for him.
"It was an open game but he took his chances when it counted. I think he could go on and win from here, but equally there are so many strong players left in the tournament that I won't be surprised whoever comes out on top."
Defeat for O'Sullivan marks the latest high-profile exit from the first Triple Crown event of the season, with each of the top four seeds at the competition having missed out on a spot in the last eight.
Despite being sent home on his birthday, the 36-time ranking tournament winner remained upbeat about his credentials for the remainder of the campaign, which continues with a clash against veteran Dominic Dale at next week's Scottish Open.
He said: "You can't get too disappointed when you lose or too over-excited when you win. Sport is more of a marathon than a sprint and I've had a lot of success over the course of my career.
"Just to be out there playing on the table in a great venue with a great crowd against a fantastic player was a great birthday present, so I'm not too upset with the defeat.
"I'll have a nice break now, chill out and look forward to the Scottish Open, and then the Masters in the New Year."
*Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan and Jimmy White.