O’Sullivan relishing latest Ding date

Ronnie O'Sullivan at The Crucible (pic Rui Vieira/PA)

Ronnie O'Sullivan at The Crucible (pic Rui Vieira/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he and Ding Junhui have struck the perfect life balance and the Chinese player is ‘driving his own’ car ahead of their World Snooker Championship clash.

The Rocket meets the world No.11 in a tantalising second-round showdown on Friday evening, bidding to avenge his defeat in the UK Championship last 16, where Ding won 6-4 on the way to lifting the trophy in York.

Ding is yet to be crowned king of the Crucible but has won a hat-trick of UK Championship and a Masters title – two of snooker’s Triple Crown events – as he often saves his best for the big time rather than travelling to tournament after tournament.

O’Sullivan’s approach has been similar in recent years and the five-time world champion says he respects his opponent for his balanced mentality to life.

“Everyone has a different way of approaching their snooker – some people are determined to win every tournament they play in like [Stephen] Hendry and [Steve] Davis,” O’Sullivan, 44, said.

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“Jimmy White wanted to enjoy himself and still compete and I’m a little bit in that bracket – I like to enjoy my life, I probably don’t practice as much as I should and I definitely don’t enter as many tournaments as I should to get the best out of myself.

“There’s always a trade off. For me, I like to be healthy, live a good lifestyle and that means I can’t play in every tournament otherwise my lifestyle wouldn’t be how I’d want it.

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“Ding maybe falls into that kind of category as well – he gets really excited by the big tournaments, but probably doesn’t want to be on the road 24/7.

“If he looks at his career overall, he’ll look at it and go he’s got a great balance – he’s been super successful on the table but he hasn’t been a slave to the sport either.

“He’s driving his own car in many ways and I respect that, really.”

A 2016 Crucible finalist, Ding doesn’t have a good record against O’Sullivan, losing 13 of their 21 contests since 2005 and winning on just five occasions.

But that does little to diminish the anticipation building ahead of their latest meeting, as two of the sport’s undisputed heavyweights prepare to duel it out under the Crucible lights.

Ding has often carried the weight of the Chinese nation on his shoulders and is expected to deliver week in, week out by snooker fanatics back in Asia.

O’Sullivan reckons he’s dealt with that pressure admirably but the 33-year-old can go on to achieve even more in the game.

“He’s delivered fantastically well in all his events he’s played in China – he’s done brilliant with that sort of pressure and expectation on him,” he added.

“He’s won the Masters and he’s won the UKs two or three times, but for someone of Ding’s ability he’s capable of winning a lot more than he has.

“Ding’s a great guy and I think everybody in snooker would love to see him go on and fulfil his potential – I’m sure he will at some point and for him, he would love to get his hands on the world title.

“If we both turn up it will be a great game and good for the fans to watch.

“Form is temporary and class is always permanent. Ding will always be a class player, so it’s probably one of the hardest matches you can get in this year’s World Championship.”

*Live snooker returns toEurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July -16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.

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