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'You have to keep believing' - UK winner Ding after ending long wait for title

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China's Ding Junhui says he is playing "the best snooker in my career" after winning his third UK Championship.

Ding outclassed Stephen Maguire 10-6 in York, finishing the final in stunning fashion with back-to-back centuries.

It was the 32-year-old's first ranking win since 2017 and came 10 years after he won his last UK title.

"I am so proud. I have been waiting a long time for this trophy and looking to the date when I can lift it again," said the 2005 and 2009 Uk champion.

"This is a big one, the third time I have won it and it means everything.

"It has been an amazing week and I have played fantastic snooker, believed in myself and trusted myself and my head has been clean, strong and happy.

"The past two seasons people have not trusted me and thoughts were coming to me, 'should I be able to win again?'

"It is definitely the best snooker I have played in my career. I cannot go over this level and the whole week it has been like this."

A resurgent Ding ended his trophy drought for his fourth victory at a Triple Crown event, having also won the Masters in 2011.

He won five ranking titles in 2013-14 and became world number one the following season but has been knocked out in the first round of three events this term.

However, he knocked out defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan en route to the final and did not look back once he went 4-0 ahead against Maguire.

Asked if he was fed up of seeing others winning, Ding told BBC Sport: "I was OK. If I lost then I would go to my family and watch somebody else pick the trophy up. I was imagining that it was me lifting it up.

"I don't care who was winning, in my mind it was me that was there. You have to keep believing, people stopped believing in me, but if I lose then nobody can help me. I have routines, like practising for two or three hours, but if you lose that then you don't know what you are doing.

"In 2013 and 2014 I had great seasons but this time I really felt I was handling the match and the win is an unbelievable feeling. I am very dangerous."

Beaten finalist Maguire, who made three centuries, added: "I just tried to go hell for leather but it is difficult when he is in a scoring mood. The way he finished it off, I take my hat off to him.

"At 8-6 I wanted to be in the balls and felt I could have cleared up but he made two hundreds and it is a tough school out there."

Just six weeks ago, Ding started working with coach Django Fung based at the Grove Snooker Academy in Romford and paid tribute to his compatriot for turning his form around.

Fung, who also manages world number one Judd Trump and others, said Ding's game was "all over the place" and had to explain that all players had "bad days" and to not let it affect him.

Ding's mental fragility has often been questioned. He remains one of the greatest players never to win the World Championship, but says he has found a new inner strength to help him cope.

"We have been friends for many years and he helps my game," he said. "He sees my game differently, where I am good and where I am bad. We have been working well.

"He makes my practice simple and it is totally different now. I was doing nothing before, there was no concentration.

"Normally I don't speak much, when I lose I feel bad and don't want to talk, I keep it bottled inside and have done that from a young age. Django understands me, knows me and can help me. You can see what is happening now."

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