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UK Championship daily preview: O'Sullivan and Ding set for Barbican final battle

After a thrilling week of action at the York Barbican, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ding Junhui meet in the final of the UK Championship on Sunday.

No player has landed more Triple Crown titles in history than world number one O'Sullivan, who will also be bidding to claim a record-extending eighth UK Championship crown.

Ding is also a multiple UK champion, having lifted the trophy three times to date, and the Chinese star will be looking to go one better than last season when he was beaten by Mark Allen in the best-of-19 frames final.

O'Sullivan is unsurprisingly the 8/15 favourite to lift the trophy come Sunday night, while Ding is 6/4 to end his four-year wait for a 15th ranking-event title.

O'Sullivan unsatisfied despite York run

It has been a strange kind of tournament for O'Sullivan, who has moved to within one win of landing the 22nd Triple Crown event of his illustrious career, but he has been largely unhappy with his displays in York, labelling his performance during his quarter-final victory over Zhou Yuelong as "awful".

It was a similar story for the Rocket in his semi-final clash with Hossein Vafaei, as despite claiming a comprehensive 6-2 win, he felt his performance was as much about survival as anything else.

O'Sullivan, who won his first Triple Crown title at the UK Championship 30 years ago, raced into a 2-0 lead over Vafaei with breaks of 113 and 54, but the Iranian responded with a century of his own before winning a scrappy fourth frame to level the match.

Vafaei was not only playing in his first semi-final at a Triple Crown event, but he was also up against his fierce rival in O'Sullivan, and the pressure started to show, with the Rocket reeling off four frames on the bounce to book his place in a ninth UK Championship final.

It has been five years since O'Sullivan last lifted the UK title - beating Allen 10-6 in the 2018 final - but he is the 8/15 favourite to end what is a mini-drought by his own high standards on Sunday.

Ding derails in-form Trump

Ding may be the most decorated Chinese snooker player in history with 14 ranking-event titles to his name, including three successes at the UK Championship, but he had to qualify for this year's event in York after slipping out of the top 16 in the world rankings.

A run to the quarter-finals of last month's International Championship suggested he was returning to form and that has certainly proven to be the case this week after wins over Allen, Tom Ford and Mark Williams set up a semi-final clash with this season's form player Judd Trump.

Trump, who was bidding to end his 12-year wait for a second UK Championship crown, was seeking title number four on the tour this year and he led Ding 2-1 and 3-2 during their semi-final clash.

However, Ding, who had already shown plenty of grit to reach the semi-finals with final-frame victories against both Allen and Williams, rallied and took the match 6-4 to set up Sunday's showdown with O'Sullivan.

Ding's last ranking-event title came at the 2019 UK Championship when he beat Stephen Maguire 10-6 in the final and he is 6/4 to land another title at the York Barbican - a venue he clearly has a great affinity with.

Familiar foes set to lock horns

Given these two players have a combined 51 years of experience on the tour, it is no surprise they have faced off on numerous occasions, with Sunday's clash set to be their 31st competitive meeting.

O'Sullivan leads the head-to-head clashes with 20 wins to Ding's seven, while three encounters have ended all-square.

Of the 30 previous meetings, five have come in finals, and once again it is O'Sullivan who leads the way, winning four of those contests, including their only previous clash in a Triple Crown event final, when he triumphed 10-3 in the 2007 Masters showpiece.

However, it is Ding that has won both their previous meetings at the UK Championship, prevailing 6-4 at the last-16 stage in 2019 and then claiming a resounding 6-0 success in last year's quarter-finals.

The Dragon has also won the duo's only meeting this year, triumphing 6-2 at the Six-red World Championship in March.

This could prove to be a titanic battle between two former champions and it remains anyone's guess which one of these two greats of the game will be lifting the first Triple Crown trophy of the season.

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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