Snooker - Ding: Give Chinese stars time

Ding Junhui has said that China's young players should be given time to develop as the country looks for a new superstar with interest in the sport there booming.

China now has five annual ranking events and the country is viewed by many as the future of snooker.

Ding's trail-blazing success - as an 18-year-old in 2005 he won the China Open and UK Championship and has five ranking titles to his name - gave rise to a slew of young hopefuls situated at Sheffield's World Snooker Academy.

There are now 10 Chinese players on the main tour, but none have won a ranking title or have been able to crack the top 32.

"It’s good for them to come to the UK and start a new life, and see what they can do in snooker," said twice UK champion Ding.

"I hope they enjoy it and do well. But we shouldn’t push them too hard, they are still young. I remember when I first came here, it was difficult."

Defending champion Ding has said that last year's other finalist Mark Selby is the favourite for next week's Welsh Open.

Selby, who lost that final 9-6 to the Chinese, won the prestigious UK Championship and Masters events recently before dropping out of the German Masters at the quarter-final stage.

Chinese superstar Ding, meanwhile, has won only one Players Tour Championship event this season.

"Mark is always very hard to beat because he never gives up and doesn’t make many mistakes," said Ding, 25.

"In the final last year I had to try my hardest on every shot. Mark is the best player at the moment but I would be happy to play him again, it’s good to go up against the best."