Ronnie O'Sullivan

Snooker World Championship Preview: Ronnie Tips Ding For World Title

A preview of Thursday’s semi-finals at the World Championship in Sheffield.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is backing close friend Ding Junhui to become world champion after his own hopes were snuffed out by the Chinese superstar, who is 33/10 for the title.

Thursday sees Ding begin the toughest possible last-four World Championship assignment as he tackles world number one Mark Selby - the man who beat him in last year's final.

After losing 13-10 to Ding, O'Sullivan shared in a warm embrace and offered words of encouragement in the arena.

"He just said that I looked a different player, how I looked stronger," Ding, who is 17/10 to reach the final, said.

"I'm proud to have support from Ronnie. Every year I'm here trying to win the title. This year I have more confidence to come through."

O'Sullivan offered further generous words once his own exit from the tournament had sunk in.

"He's a special lad, a beautiful guy, and I know his family really well so I know he comes from good stock," O'Sullivan said. "He wants to win this title so bad."

Selby was so dominant against Marco Fu that he won their quarter-final with a session to spare, his 13-3 win featuring a 143 break that surprisingly lasted only a matter of hours as the highest of the tournament.

It was bettered by O'Sullivan, who made a magical 146 against Ding and later denied he deliberately spurned the chance of a 147 maximum.

This has the possibility of going all the way so Selby is 10/1 to win a last-frame decider with Ding 23/2 to do likewise.

Selby and Ding begin their four-session, best-of-33-frame semi-final on Thursday afternoon, with John Higgins and Barry Hawkins getting under way in the evening.

Higgins, a four-time champion, was convincing in sweeping past Kyren Wilson 13-6 and the 41-year-old is convinced he can land another crown.

"I believe I can, yeah, and it's a great feeling to have," said Higgins, who is quoted at 3/1 to lift the title and 8/13 to make the final.

Hawkins overcame Stephen Maguire 13-9 to reach his fourth Crucible semi-final in five years and is the 9/2 outsider to be world champion and 5/4 to beat Higgins.

He said: "If I play anything like I did in this game then I'll get my bum smacked by John."

Higgins is in the groove and we like the look of 43/20 for him to prevail by at least five frames.