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More China children to play snooker - UK champion Ding

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Ding Junhui believes more children will take up snooker in China after he won the UK Championship for the third time.

World number nine Ding is the highest ranked of the 23 Chinese players on tour, with four others in the top 32.

Snooker is so popular in mainland China that it is included on the sports curriculum in schools.

"They love to watch snooker and the young players in China fully support me," said Ding, 32, who reached world number one in 2014.

Ding outclassed Scotland's Stephen Maguire 10-6 for his 14th ranking title on Sunday, which came after two years without winning any silverware.

It followed his triumphs at the tournament in 2005 and 2009 to become only the fifth player to win the event on three or more occasions.

The growth of snooker in China has meant a number of players have broken through to become professionals but none have come close to achieving Ding's level of success.

Yan Bingtao, 19, is the newest star to emerge from China, winning the season-opening Riga Masters. At the 2017 Northern Ireland Open, he came agonisingly close to beating Ronnie O'Sullivan's record as the youngest player to win a ranking event.

He added: "When they were little kids they wanted to be like me, they said 'Ding is a great player' and now five, 10 years later they are pros and playing against me so seeing them is great and it makes me happy."

Asked if more children will pick up a cue after seeing his latest victory, Ding replied: "Yes, I believe they will.

"Children might not know the sport yet but their parents love it and will make them play. They will get interested in snooker, and watch my games especially when I play well."

Ding had his brother-in-law and a couple of friends with him in York this week, as well as coach Django Fung, who he credits turning his form around having worked with him for just six weeks.

But he headed back to Sheffield, where he lives with his family, with one regret.

"I wish my wife and daughter could have lifted the trophy with me," he said.

"Nobody knows who is going to win so I will make sure they are here next time. My life is going great, I have a lot of fun with my daughter and losing matches is not so important now.

"Before when I used to lose, it felt like the whole world had ended but now with my new life I want to go home after practice and with my daughter I can forget everything that happens in snooker."

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