“I’m not sure he’s got the hunger or desire for it now.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan has offered a searingly honest assessment of Ding Junhui ahead of the pair’s first-round encounter at the Masters.
O’Sullivan and Ding will face off in the opening round at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes on Wednesday with both players targeting their first piece of silverware this season.
O’Sullivan is aiming for a record-extending eighth Masters crown this week while Ding is hoping to add a second title to his trophy cabinet, 10 years after prevailing in the prestigious tournament.
‘It’s not a criticism of Ding there’s just different levels of hunger’
However, while O’Sullivan called a ‘fantastic player’, the six-time world champion has questioned his opponent’s desire to compete with the likes of Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby.
“Ding’s a fantastic player as far as his cue ball, his break-building ability and he’s playing a lot more this year. That’s good for him,” O’Sullivan told Metro.
“Snooker at the moment is like a 9-5 job, you’ve got to turn up every day and play. Some days are not great, some are good and at some point you’ll hit a point where you’re playing very well and get victories. I’m sure that’s Ding’s approach, playing a lot more.
“Ding is a bit like me, I’m not sure he’s got the hunger or desire for it now. Ability is one thing, but hunger and desire…there’s going to be times when you’re playing Judd or Selby or Robertson and you’ve got to want it as much as them and they want it really bad. That’s what wins them tight, big matches.
“It’s not a criticism of Ding there’s just different levels of hunger. He’s hungry to win, yeah, you ask him if he wants to win tournaments his answer is “yeah” but it’s how badly?
In 25 years of Masters appearances Ronnie O’Sullivan has reached the final an astonishing 13 times winning it a record 7 times and runner up 6 times
Could he make it 8 times #Snooker pic.twitter.com/CApofVR2fm
— Phil Mudd (@MuddPhil) January 8, 2021
“Sometimes it’s got to feel like a matter of life and death. That sounds crazy, but if you just think “well, if I lose it’s not the end of the world” that’s the difference between life and death and thinking it don’t really matter.”
In December 2019, Ding beat O’Sullivan in a thrilling last-16 encounter en route to clinching his third UK Championship, the last of the 33-year-old’s 14 ranking titles.