American Hustle … frustration, China Open qualifiers and desecration of an icon

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Today, the first (of four) episode of Ronnie’s American Hustle will be out on HistoryUK channel at 10pm (UK time).  Most of us will not be able to watch it unfortunately, which is a shame because, going by the trailers, it’s very funny and very interesting. If you are looking for a streaming … you will find out that you can indeed register to watch it online … but only if you are a UK resident. The rationale behind such restrictive policies in today’s global world are beyond my understanding. Why?

Anyway, yesterday they published this very interesting podcast featuring John Virgo, David Hendon and Ronnie himself.

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Tonight Ronnie will play James Cahill in the China Open qualifying round. Earlier this week, Ali Carter’s manager was reflecting that, for top players who had just been competing in the Masters, in Ally Pally, going to battle it out in qualifiers in front a scarce audience, is coming down with a hard bump and that it was very hard to be up for it. In the end, Ali was lucky: his opponent withdrew, so he didn’t need to make the trip to Preston.

Ronnie doesn’t like the 128 tour, he doesn’t like to play in those qualifiers – none of the top guys do – and he’s obviously busy with the promotion of his American Hustle series, so,  I’m not expecting a great performance, although he should go through.

The venue is the Preston Guildhall, the former house of the UK Championship and the place where it all started for Ronnie, still only 17, when he won his first ranking title. It’s an iconic place. Shaun Murphy claimed he was “excited” to return there. Really Shaun? I find it awkward and unsettling more than anything else. This iconic venue, poorly lit, with partitions, almost empty, without any atmosphere … it’s a kind of desecration. Would you be excited to see “qualifying partitions” in a dark/empty Crucible? I don’t for sure. It won’t happen of course, the Crucible is far too small for that. But, well, you get the feeling …

 

Ronnie is the Master 2017

Ronnie won the Masters for a record seventh time yesterday evening, bringing his tally of “majors” to 17, only second to Stephen Hendry with 18. He had to battle illness and to play with a new tip mid-tournament after the one he was using got damaged, but he did it!

Paul Hunter’s parents were in the audience and it was Paul’s father, Allan, who handed the trophy to an emotional Ronnie.

As Stephen Hendry pointed out several times during the tournament, Ronnie’s attitude was exemplary and his determination to win much stronger than his desire to entertain.

Ronnie had many friends with him last night, Jimmy White, Dr Steve Peters and Damian Hirst amongst them, and Ronnie Jr was there too to share the win with his father.

Congratulations Ronnie!

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Sunday 22 Jan 2017 10:25PM

Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Joe Perry 10-7 in the final of the Dafabet Masters to become the first player to take the title seven times.

The Rocket had previous shared the record of six with Stephen Hendry but now stands alone with one more crown, after coming from 4-1 down to win nine of the last 12 frames against under-dog Perry at Alexandra Palace.

O’Sullivan received a cheque for £200,00 and lifted the Paul Hunter Trophy which was named after Hunter for the first time, in memory of the three-time Masters winner who died in 2006.

Chigwell’s O’Sullivan has now won 17 Triple Crown titles in total, with five wins apiece at the World and UK Championships, which is one behind Hendry’s record of 18.

O’Sullivan has won the Masters in 1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017

World number 13 O’Sullivan won his first piece of silverware since the Welsh Open last February, having lost in the final of the European Masters, Champion of Champions and UK Championship this season.

In fact he has produced his best snooker only in spells this week – notably in his semi-final win over Marco Fu on Saturday – but, at the age of 41, O’Sullivan remains a formidable force, particularly in London where most of the 2,000-strong crowd get behind him. This was his 12th Masters final in all and ninth since 2004.

It was also a landmark week for Perry as he reached the final of a Triple Crown event for the first time, albeit one which finished in disappointment as he failed to capitalise on his early dominance. The 42-year-old from Chatteris receives £90,000, his second biggest career pay day after the £100,000 he banked for winning the 2015 Players Championship.

It was 4-4 at the end of the first session then O’Sullivan won a scrappy opening frame tonight to go ahead for the first time.  That gave him a momentum boost and he sailed through the next three frames with top breaks of 68, 56 and 85 to lead 8-4.

Perry’s resistance appeared to be fading at that stage, having lost seven frames in a row, but the world number nine found new impetus after the interval and fired runs of 117 and 92 to close to 8-6. And he had a chance early in the next but missed a tricky opening red along the top cushion. O’Sullivan punished him with a superb 112 to get to the brink of victory.

Perry dominated the 16th frame with runs of 39 and 53 to make it 9-7. Frame 17 came down to a safety exchange on the last red. Perry went full-blooded for a pot to a baulk corner but it missed its target and that proved his last shot as O’Sullivan cleared to cross the winning line.

That’s probably the best win I’ve had in my life,” said O’Sullivan. “Given the circumstances with my cue tip (which he had to change during his match with Fu). Yesterday it played fantastic, today I couldn’t do much with it. I just managed to hold it together under the most extreme pressure. I couldn’t play three quarters of the shots that I wanted to. I just had to hang in there and I’m proud I was able to do that.

“Joe’s a fantastic player. You don’t get to the final of the Masters without being a really top quality player. Even if everything had gone well for me, I’d still have had a massive match on my hands.

“I’m not really into history and records. I just like to play, I just like to enjoy. I don’t want to stop at seven titles. I just want to keep enjoying playing the sport that I’ve played for a long time.

“I’m over the moon to still be competing. I don’t expect to be the best player in the world because I don’t play as much as the other guys. I’ve done everything there is to do in the game. I’ve got nothing to prove. I just enjoy competing at tournaments, getting up in the morning and putting the practice in. I love a challenge. I will keep going until the wheels come off.

“Paul Hunter was a legend of the game. A beautiful guy, loved by all the players. I always say if he is looking down on us, we love you very much. You’re not forgotten. It’s great that this tournament is named after Paul. I’m just so happy to have put my name on that trophy.”

Perry said: “I’m a little bit disappointed. I enjoyed every minute of it. I got Ronnie on the day you want to get him on. He wasn’t in full flow today, but it just goes to show the way his mind is now, and his all round game is good.

“I just missed the boat a bit at 4-1. I didn’t start seeing the winning line or anything but the pressure switched and I didn’t handle it very well. I came out tonight in the same sort of vein. That was the worst four frames I’d played all week. The interval came at a good time. I got my head back on it and really enjoyed the conclusion of the match. I was just a fraction away from making it 9-8 – and then who knows.

And here are images of the match and the win thanks to Tai Chengzhe

And some more shared by Worldsnooker on twitter (I think they were taken by Matt Huart):

And now the videos …

Ronnie’s post-match with Rob Walker:

The match ES previews – MissingClips

The afternoon session (full BBC coverage):

MissingClip (MSI ES review)

The evening session:

MissingClip ( ES preview)

The evening session (full BBC coverage):

MissingClip (MSI ES review)

 

Masters 2017 – Day 7 as it happened

It was a very eventful day in Alexandra palace!

In the afternoon match, Ronnie beat Marco Fu, against most expectations, by 6-4, having needed to change his tip mid-match. You can read all about it here. I also recommend this excellent piece by Hector Nunns on inside-snooker.

The evening match was completely different but no less extraordinary: Joe Perry looked beaten when in frame 8, Barry Hawkins, already 5-2 up, had potted what was effectively frame and match ball. Joe came back to the table needing one snooker, and he didn’t look one bit hopeful. But he got it, and got a free ball as well. Instead of going home, he made it 5-3 and started the most extraordinary comeback. When an emotional Joe potted the match ball blue in the deciding frame, and sent a kiss to his father Peter sat in the arena, Alexandra Palace went wild.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Sunday 22 Jan 2017 12:11AM

Joe Perry completed a tremendous come back against Barry Hawkins to win 6-5 and reach the final of the Dafabet Masters.

World number nine Perry is into the final of a Triple Crown tournament for the first time and will face Ronnie O’Sullivan over 19 frames on Sunday at Alexandra Palace, with the winner to receive the Paul Hunter Trophy and a cheque for £200,000. Perry is already guaranteed £90,000, which would be his second biggest career pay day after the £100,000 he banked for winning his first ranking title at the 2015 Players Championship.

That looked a distant dream for the 42-year-old from Chatteris when he trailed Hawkins 5-2 and needed a snooker in the eighth frame. But he hit back in superb style and finished with a gutsy clearance in the decider.

Before this week, Perry had failed to go beyond the last 16 of any tournament since October and insisted he was going through one of the worst periods of his career. But he has turned his form around in London, knocking out Stuart Bingham, Ding Junhui and Hawkins at snooker’s biggest invitation event.

Perry had an early 2-1 lead tonight but then Hawkins, who was runner-up to O’Sullivan last year, gained control of the tie. Breaks of 58 and 53 put him 3-2 up and he won safety battles on the final red in both the sixth and seventh frames to make it 5-2.

World number 12 Hawkins made a 58 in frame eight to lead by 44 points, before running out of position with two reds left. After a tactical exchange, Perry potted one red then laid a tough snooker on the other. And when Hawkins failed to escape, his opponent cleared and the come back was on.

Runs of 57 and 62 helped Perry recover to 5-5. Hawkins had two early chances in the decider and led 50-0 when he was unlucky not to land on a red when splitting the pack. He later missed a mid range red to a top corner to hand his opponent a chance.

There was still plenty to do but Perry made a brilliant 70, highlighted by a cracking pot on the last red to a baulk corner, and an even better do-or-die brown along the baulk cushion. When he added the blue he turned to his father Peter in the crowd to celebrate one of his best career wins.

“I really can’t believe it,” said Perry, who had never reached the semi-finals of the Masters before. “When Barry potted game ball to leave me needing a snooker at 5-2, I was thinking what I was going to say to him. My next move was to shake his hand and wish him all the best for the final. This game’s mad, it never ceases to amaze.

“It’s got to be the best comeback of my career, especially at this stage of a tournament. I struggled early on. Barry was by far the better player. He had the match at his mercy and then me getting back into it completely changed the momentum.

“It was scrappy. I missed a lot of balls and played a lot of loose shots. He was controlling the match. I didn’t really settle on the new cloth, but I just stuck in and got over the line in the end.

“I’m going to be second favourite. Ronnie has been virtually unbeatable here the last few years but that won’t be my attitude tomorrow. I’ll have to go out there and play to the best of my ability.

“Playing the table and not playing Ronnie will be very hard. I’ve played them all, I’ve played Hendry, Davis, Jimmy. Ronnie is the one where it’s that much tougher just to play the table. The atmosphere was incredible here tonight, I’m sure it’s going to be ramped up a few notches tomorrow.

“My plan is to get in front and stay in front. I’ve got to go out there to win and not just to enjoy the occasion. That will happen anyway. It’s my first Masters final and I want to win it.”

Today, both Ronnie and Joe will have their own brand of pressure. Ronnie will have to carry all the expectations, and he’s going for a record seventh Masters.  Joe, as he stated, will want to win against the odds in front of what will probably be a partisan crowd.

 

 

Masters 2017 – Ronnie beats Marco Fu by 6-4 in the SF

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Those stats tell the story…

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Saturday 21 Jan 2017 05:00PM

Ronnie O’Sullivan described his 6-4 win over Marco Fu as his “best ever” as he recovered from a damaged cue tip to reach the final of the Dafabet Masters.

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Crowd favourite O’Sullivan is into his 12th Masters final and is aiming for his seventh title, which would put him ahead of the record of six he shares with Stephen Hendry. The Rocket will face Barry Hawkins or Joe Perry over 19 frames on Sunday with the winner to bank £200,000. O’Sullivan is also trying to defend the title having thrashed Hawkins 10-1 in last year’s final.

The 41-year-old from Chigwell is into his fourth final of the season – though he has lost oll three so far and is hoping to land his first silverware since the Welsh Open 11 months ago.

Hong Kong’s Fu who won last month’s Scottish Open, took the opening frame today with a break of 89, and had chances in the second but O’Sullivan snatched it by clearing from the penultimate red.

Fu regained the lead with a run of 110 then the mid-session interval was called early because O’Sullivan’s cue tip was damaged. Referee Paul Collier put a new tip on backstage, and the contest resumed.

Many players might have struggled to get used to a new tip quickly, but having had just a few shots on a practice table, O’Sullivan was immediately into a scoring groove as a break of 95 made it 2-2.

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The big breaks continued to flow as Fu made a 141 – the new front-runner for the £10,000 high break prize – then O’Sullivan responded with 122 for 3-3. World number 13 O’Sullivan had first chance in frame seven but missed the black off its spot on 47 and his opponent cleared superbly with 83.

O’Sullivan started frame eight with a run of 55, then Fu had a chance to clear but made just 6 before missing a red to a top corner with the rest. O’Sullivan capitalised with 63 for 4-4. And that proved the turning point as he swept through the last two frames with breaks of 82 and 69.

“It’s probably my best win ever considering everything that went on and the way I played, given the stature of the tournament, the atmosphere,” said O’Sullivan, who is hoping to win his 17th Triple Crown title tomorrow. “There was a lot of pressure out there and to be able to hold myself together and win was so good. It’s one of the best wins of my life.

“It can take you a while, five or six days, to get used to a new tip. But I knew I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t win with the old one. It was totally gone. It was unplayable, I had to take it off. It wasn’t a gamble, I had to do it.

“Marco’s had a great run since the UK. He’s had two fantastic wins here. He was so close to winning that match, he didn’t lose out there today. I think he’s going to win more tournaments because he’s such a good player. He looks so much more aggressive and confident.

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“I like my chances when I’m out there even when I’m not playing great. A lot of it is about stamping your authority on the game and letting your opponent know that he’s going to have to play really well to beat you. I’ve worked on my mental skills a lot and I think I’m much more of a competitor these days.

“I don’t care about the seventh title. I’ve gone past that. I’m just enjoying myself. I’ve had a great Saturday afternoon out. Most people are paying to watch that, I’m getting in for free.

“I hope it’ll be a fantastic occasion tomorrow. It’s been a fantastic week. Everyone that’s been here, all the top 16 players have put on a great tournament. I hope tomorrow can be another good day.”

Fu said: “He played really well. I only played one bad shot in the whole match. Every credit to the greatest player in the game today. You just have to admire it and wish him all the best in the final. Hopefully he can break the record. It was a great match to be involved in.

“I think Paul Collier put a great tip on, unfortunately. That’s the way it goes! Sometimes it just clicks. Every tip is a little bit different. He got used to it straight away, so fair play to him.”

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Ronnie’s postmatch with Rob Walker:

The match (full BBC coverage):

and the ES review

MissingClips

And this is Ronnie’s lego…

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Masters 2017 – Day 6 as it happened

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Day 6 was a tale of the unexpected. That Barry Hawkins came out the winner against Mark Selby wasn’t that much of a surprise considering how well he played in the previous matches, but, the score is as  it wasn’t even a close match actually. Mark Selby was outplayed and he will have to wait for another year to get a chance at holding all triple crown trophies at the same time. Joe Perry was very solid but it’s not unfair to say that Ding was very, very poor, and the score reflects that.

So what do we have in store for today? Ronnie will have to improve considerably to overcome Marco Fu; he seems to be over the worse of his flu, but will two days be enough to be prepared for a battle against one of the very best break-builders of all times? I’m not sure. I expect Marco to come on top. In the other semi final, I’ll go for Hawkins, who I tipped from the start to be a dark horse. Perry and Hawkins are similar players in many ways, but tactically I fancy Hawkins to get the upper hand, and also, Barry has been in World and Masters finals, Joe hasn’t and that kind of experience may be a factor too. The two are very close friends, a bit like Ronnie and Liang in the first round. It might also come down as to whom is best equipped to take this off their mind at the crucial times.

Here are the reports on Worldsnooker:

Barry Hawkins beats Mark Selby:

Friday 20 Jan 2017 05:05PM

Barry Hawkins knocked World and UK Champion Mark Selby out of the Dafabet Masters, winning 6-3 to reach the semi-finals at Alexandra Palace.

Selby had come to London with the chance to become only the fifth player – after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Mark Williams – to hold all three Triple Crown titles simultaneously.

But that dream is now over as the world number one was outplayed by 11th seed Hawkins. London’s 37-year-old Hawkins, who reached the final last year before losing 10-1 to Ronnie O’Sullivan, goes through to the last four to face Ding Junhui or Joe Perry on Saturday evening.

The opening frame today lasted 41 minutes and Hawkins won it after getting the better of safety battles on the yellow and green. Selby levelled with a break of 76 before Hawkins took the next two frames with 63 and 60 to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Selby came from 62-0 down to win frame five with an excellent 71 clearance, only for Hawkins to regain the momentum by dominating the sixth for 4-2. A run of 101 from Selby saw him halve his deficit, but he didn’t score a point in frame eight as Hawkins took it with 49 and 36.

Hawkins led 60-38 in the ninth when he missed a tricky pot on the last red along a side cushion. Selby had a chance to clear but missed the brown to a baulk corner. And a loose safety from Selby proved his final shot as Hawkins cleared for victory.

“I was quietly confident, but you can’t be too confident going in against the world number one,” said two-time ranking event winner Hawkins. “I feel happy with my game at the moment. I knew I had to play well to have any chance of winning. I was pleased the way I stayed strong out there today.

“If I can take anything from that game it was the way I bounced back after losing a couple of sore ones. He nicked one from 60 behind and then I missed a black off the spot at 4-2 and he made a century. That was quite tough but I was pleased with the way I came back.

“It’s up there with one of my best ever wins, along with beating Ronnie at the Crucible. Selby’s been a machine over the last few years. If you’re going to beat him, you have to play well. Even when I was 5-3 up, I wasn’t getting carried away because he’s come back so many times before. It’s one of the best wins of my career for sure and I’m in the semi-final of another major which is great, so I want to keep on going.

“Last year’s Masters was a great experience, apart from the final. But they are great memories and I played some good stuff. Hopefully I can get to the final and show up a little bit better than I did then.

The ‘Selby Slam’ dream is over

“It always hurts whenever you lose but to lose 10-1 – I felt a bit demoralised. I was gone in the end, it’s a horrible place to be. I’ve definitely learnt from that.”

Selby said: “I wasn’t thinking about the Triple Crown titles. I was just going out there to win a game of snooker. But every credit to Barry, he punished me every time he got a chance.

“I’ve had a great start to the season. Even though I’ve lost today, I still feel my form’s there so I’m not too disappointed. At the same time, it would have been nice to win and give myself the chance to try and hold all three at the same time. You’ve got to lose at some stage I suppose.”

Joe Perry beats Ding Junhui:

Friday 20 Jan 2017 10:37PM

Joe Perry scored a tremendous 6-1 win over Ding Junhui to reach the semi-finals of the Dafabet Masters for the first time.

World number nine Perry came into this week in poor form having failed to go beyond the last 16 of any tournament since October. But he has produced some excellent snooker in beating both Ding and Stuart Bingham by 6-1 scorelines.

The 42-year-old from Chatteris, who had only once before reached the quarter-finals of the Masters, now faces Barry Hawkins on Saturday evening for a place in the final and is already guaranteed a £50,000 pay day. Victory over Hawkins would put him into the final of Triple Crown event for the first time.

It was a lacklustre display from China’s Ding who made too many unforced errors as his usually-accurate potting radar went awry. Perry took the first four frames with a top break of just 55.

The Englishman extended his lead after the interval, making a 63 in frame five, before Ding finally showed some resistance as a superb long red set up a run of 54 which helped him make it 5-1. But when he missed a red to a corner pocket early in the seventh frame, he could only sit and watch as Perry finished in style with a break of 127.

Ding was well below his best

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Perry, who won his first ranking title at the 2015 Players Championship. “Ding is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. We all know what he’s capable of. I just felt like I controlled the match from start to finish, so that’s a real feather in my cap.

“I came in here with no form. So it’s nice to play with no expectations. I think I stole Neil Robertson’s long game tonight because my long potting was the strongest part of my game. My safety was good. I kept control of the table.

“I’d rather never play Barry again, for the simple reason he’s my best mate on the tour. On the plus side of that, one of us is going to be in the final. I’m sure whoever wins will congratulate the other and wish them all the best and hope they go on and win it.

“When I won my first ranking title, that did get a big monkey off my back. I always believed I was good enough to win one. I don’t think age is a barrier in our game, it’s all about desire and dedication.

“I dreamed about this moment many times when I was younger. My first ever visit to a snooker tournament was watching Jimmy White play Ray Reardon in the Masters at the Wembley Conference Centre. My dad picked me up from school and I just dreamed that one day I would play in that tournament. Now to have a chance of playing in a final here is amazing.”

Masters 2017 – Day 5 as it happened

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Once again two completely different matches, although this time it doesn’t translate into the scorelines.

Ronnie beat Neil Robertson in a match that mixed great shots and bad misses. It was thrilling in its own way, but hardly top quality snooker. You can read all about it here.

Marco Fu on the other hand produced a very high standard to defeat Mark Allen by 6-2.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Thursday 19 Jan 2017 09:58PM

Marco Fu cruised into the semi-finals of the Dafabet Masters with a 6-2 win over Mark Allen and looks in good enough form to beat his next opponent – Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Fu is playing the best snooker of his career so far, having won the Scottish Open last month and continued his hot streak this week in London. The world number eight from Hong Kong has made four centuries and nine more breaks over 50 in his two matches at Alexandra Palace.

He now faces what could be an epic clash against crowd favourite O’Sullivan on Saturday afternoon, with the winner to go through to Sunday’s final. Fu’s best Masters run came in 2011 when he got to the final before losing to Ding Junhui.

Breaks of 74 and 83 put Fu 2-0 ahead tonight and he stole the third frame by clearing from the last red. Allen battled back to 3-2 with runs of 70 and 54, but he then scored just five points in the last three frames.

Fu’s 97 made it 4-2 then he made a 140 total clearance, the new front-runner for the £10,000 high break prize. And he sealed victory in frame eight with a run of 65.

“I played very well today,” said three-time ranking event winner Fu. “Right from the start I was 100 per cent focused because I needed to be like that against a player of Mark’s calibre. I’m just really happy with my game at the moment.

“Winning the match was the most important thing – to get the high break as well was a bonus. Everything seems to be coming together at the right time

“These games are what I practise for, to be able to play Ronnie at the Masters. It’s the match that everyone dreams about, playing Jimmy in London, Ronnie in London. I’m looking forward to it a lot.

“I’m hoping I can get even better but at the moment I’m playing the best snooker of my life. The spell started at the UK Championship, continued in Scotland and it’s still going now. I couldn’t ask for a better time to have a good spell.

“I’m still a dark horse for the event because I’ve never won it before. Technically, I don’t know what it takes to win this tournament. I hope this is my week, but I’m just taking it one match at a time.”

Asked about a few shouts from the crowd during the match, Fu added: “It wasn’t nasty shouting, they just shouted at the wrong time. I felt for Mark because they were his supporters. I’ve seen a lot worse before. It didn’t really bother me, but I’m sure it affected Mark a little bit.”

Watch here Marco’s 140, currently the tournament HB:

There is no doubt that Ronnie will need to improve a lot to beat Marco in this form. But as I wrote earlier, as long as he is still in it, he still has a chance.

Masters 2017 – Ronnie beats Neil Robertson by 6-3 in the QF

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Ronnie was far from his best but enjoyed quite a good slice of luck in winning his QF match against Neil Robertson. Both players made an unusual number of mistakes when in the balls, especially after the MSI but both played some excellent shots as well. It was a bit of a bizarre match, but entertaining in its own way.

Ronnie, whilst in the BBC studio after the match, said that this was the first day he felt OK physically, having been quite ill until yesterday. So we can assume he didn’t practice much. He was in a good mood, probably not expecting to still be in the tournament considering his poor preparation.

Here is the match report on Worldsnooker:

Thursday 19 Jan 2017 05:58PM

Ronnie O’Sullivan kept his hopes of a record seventh Dafabet Masters crown alive thanks to an edgy 6-3 defeat of Neil Robertson in London.

It was a clash between the two most successful Masters competitors of recent years. Since the tournament’s move to Alexandra Palace in 2012, either Robertson or O’Sullivan has reached the final on every occasion. However, it was the Rocket who progressed on this occasion to book a semi-final spot against either Mark Allen or Marco Fu.

O’Sullivan is seeking his first silverware of the 2016/17 season, having been runner-up at the European Masters, Champion of Champions and UK Championship.

It was the Thunder from Down Under that set an electric pace in front of a packed 2,000 strong audience. A run of 74 helping Robertson into an early 1-0 advantage. However, O’Sullivan responded immediately with a run of 64 to restore parity. The match then became more fragmented and both players struggled to find their fluent best.  They traded frames to go into the interval level at 2-2.

When they returned it was 2012 Masters Champion Robertson that edged ahead thanks to runs of 59 and 62, only to find himself pegged back once more by the Rocket to go 3-3.

As the winning line drew closer missed opportunities became more frequent with both players under pressure. A loose safety from the Australian allowed O’Sullivan to go 4-3 up in a scrappy seventh frame. Both players then missed simple reds to the middle in the eighth, before the Rocket cashed in on a fluked red to make 54 and move one frame from victory

The five-time World Champion O’Sullivan the clinched his third frame in a row with a break of 68 to book his semi-final berth with a 6-3 win.

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O’Sullivan said: “I don’t think either of us played well. It was just one of those matches. As long as I felt physically better than I have been, I was happy. I’ve been ill for so long, it’s nice to just feel normal today.

“I don’t care about luck. I’m too old to worry about that, I’m in the next round. Hopefully, at some point I can play a little bit better, get to a final or win a tournament.

“I think I’ve got two or three years of having good opportunities to win tournaments if I’m being realistic. I’ve got to accept that I’m not as clinical or sharp as I used to be, probably four or five years ago. But I’m just going to drag it out, play as much as I can,” said the six-time Masters winner. “I’m a fierce competitor and I think that’s what got me through today. I’ll always be that, although today wasn’t a great performance.

Some images of the match, big thanks to Tai Chengzhe!

 

The match itself (BBC full coverage):

The aftermatch with the Eurosport pundits:

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