Chinese snooker superstar Ding Junhui cruised into the quarterfinals of the World Snooker Championship on Monday, securing the one frame he required to thrash Anthony McGill 13-4 in their second round clash.
The 31-year-old, the losing finalist in 2016, is the new favourite after five-time champion “Rocket” Ronnie O’Sullivan and defending champion Mark Selby went out.
Ding showed little sign of the favourite’s tag handicapping him as he wasted little time in securing the one frame he needed in Monday’s third and final session against his 27-year-old Scottish opponent.
“I was focused and relaxed and took every chance to make breaks,” said Ding.
“I feel good and I am playing well.”
Ding – bidding to become the first Asian to be crowned champion – will play Englishman Barry Hawkins in the last eight.
Hawkins beat Ding on his way to a surprise appearance in the 2013 world final, where he lost to O’Sullivan. The 39-year-old has since shown that was no fluke by reaching the last four on three occasions.
“Barry is a great player. It will be a tough game. He plays well at the Crucible every year,” Ding added.
Ding lost to Selby in the 2016 final and last year’s semifinals, and he could face serious competition for the title from another Scot, John Higgins, who looks in sparkling form.
The 42-year-old quadruple world champion, who lost in last year’s final, demolished Englishman Jack Lisowski 13-1.
That was no mean feat given Lisowski – who only just avoided becoming the second player in the tournament’s history to fail to win a frame – had ousted 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham in the first round.
Higgins’s highest break was 146, one short of a maximum clearance – only the fourth time it has been done in world championships history.
He will next face the winner of the match between 2011 finalist Judd Trump and Ricky Walden, who are all square at 8-8.
“I felt for Jack a little bit,” said Higgins.
“It is the worst feeling in the world and the worst venue in the world when you are really struggling. The harder you try, the worse it gets. I could see what he was going through.”