Ronnie O’Sullivan is ready to play villain of the piece at the China Open in Beijing this week.
Ding Jun Hui delighted more than 100 million Chinese television viewers by landing his home title a year ago.
The 18-year-old beat Peter Ebdon, Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry en route to capturing the trophy and quickly became a national hero.
O’Sullivan did not play in the 2005 tournament but has the title – and Ding - in his sights as he looks for his first ranking event trophy of the season.
“I’d like to meet Ding in the final and win,” said O’Sullivan, who won the China Open in 1999 and 2000.
“It’s always been my ambition to play the best in their backyard. I’ve played Stephen Hendry in Scotland, Mark Williams in Wales, Ken Doherty in Ireland and James Wattana in Thailand, and come out victorious.
“So I’d like to play Ding in the China final and do the business.”
Many players would wilt when faced with a partisan crowd but O’Sullivan, who has sometimes found motivation hard to come by, says he thrives on an antagonistic atmosphere.
“In Thailand, if I played Wattana they used to clap if I made a mistake,” he said.
“Even when he went to the toilet they cheered him. That kind of experience is great even though the crowd wants you to get beaten. It’s good to be involved in matches like that.”
O’Sullivan, 30, starts his campaign against Wattana on Wednesday and will be hoping to kickstart his fortunes with the 888.com World Championship less than four weeks away.
The twice Crucible champion has not won a ranking tournament match since October, although he did win the invitation-only Betfred Premier League and finish runner-up in the Saga Masters at Wembley.
O’Sullivan’s failure to make an impact in the events which count towards the composition of the ranking list means he starts out in Beijing third on the provisional standings.
Ding is seeded first following his victory last year and meets the winner of the wildcard round match between Stoke’s Dave Harold and Yang Qing Tian.
Hendry, currently top of the provisional rankings, faces a potential banana skin tie against Barry Hawkins, who beat him in the Welsh Open three weeks ago before defeating Ding in the final qualifying round of the World Championship.
John Higgins, second on the points list, meets Basildon’s Stuart Bingham while Jimmy White, who plays Leicester’s Mark Selby, will be hoping for an extended run after slipping to 29th in the standings.
There are eight Chinese wildcards in the field with the eventual winner next Sunday picking up a cheque for £30,000 (€44,000).