Ding Junhui insists he still harbours hopes of becoming world snooker champion, despite his quarter-final hammering at the hands of Judd Trump today.
The 28-year-old trailed 12-4 overnight and bowed out in nine minutes of the final session with Trump shaking off a fever to make a match-winning break of 66.
Though Ding has won virtually every other ranking tournament on the calendar, the furthest he has ever advanced in nine years at his adopted home of Sheffield was to the 2011 semi-final – Trump again proving his nemesis.
He has not reached a tournament final in the 2014/15 season but, far from feeling as though he is on the decline, Ding retains the belief he can one day fulfil his ultimate wish.
“The dream is one day to win the title,” said the world No.3.
“At the moment it’s just a dream because it hasn’t happened. If I do it and make the dream real it will be very good.
“I’ve played ok this season, not too bad. But it wasn’t good enough to win titles. Next season I think I will play better.”
In the build-up to the last-eight encounter, Ding had said he felt Trump was “lucky” to win their last meeting at the Crucible and that this time he would triumph.
But Ding is a notoriously slow starter in the mornings and, after losing the opening six frames of the contest, the writing looked to be on the wall.
He ended the first session with a 6-2 deficit, but Trump was back in his groove in the final session with three centuries to leave him requiring just an additional frame on Wednesday morning to get over the line.
“He played really well,” Ding conceded.
“I didn’t have many chances, but I almost missed all the chances I had to make some points.
“I just had to keep going and hope to get a chance, but he is playing very well.
“I’ve not seen him play like that for a few years, maybe since 2011, he’s played the best matches he can.
“I think he can win, of course anyone can but he is playing very well. He just has to keep it up now in the last few days.
“This tournament I played well. I didn’t feel under pressure. If you are 4-0 down, 5-1 down you can still catch someone. Even at 6-0 down I always think I can win, I just keep going, I don’t think about pressure.
“But because Judd played so well, it made the game a little bit harder.”
* British Eurosport is the Home of Snooker, showing 19 tournaments per season including the World Championship, UK Championship the Masters and all other ranking events. Available on Sky, Virgin Media & BT TV or online/mobile via eurosportplayer.com