Ronnie beat Stephen Maguire by 6-4, fending off a spirited comeback from the Scot who was 4-0 down at the MSI.
Tomorrow he will play either Ryan Day or Shaun Murphy in the Final, his seventh UK Championship Final, and his fifth final this season already.
A win tomorrow would see Ronnie equal Steve Davis’ record of six UK Championship and Stephen Hendry’s record of 18 “majors”. But hopefully, Ronnie won’t think about that … he doesn’t need additional pressure, no player does.
UK Championship 2017: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Stephen Maguire 6-4 in first semi-final
Five-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan held off Stephen Maguire’s spirited fightback to reach his seventh UK Championship final with a 6-4 victory.
O’Sullivan, beaten in last year’s final by Mark Selby, looked in ominous form early on, opening up a 4-0 lead with breaks of 61, 54 and 64.
Maguire made 91 and 129 as he cut the deficit to 5-4, but O’Sullivan – who had a 111 clearance – edged through.
He faces 2008 winner Shaun Murphy or Ryan Day in Sunday’s best-of-19 final.
“He came back at me but I was lucky to be 4-0 ahead,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.
“He didn’t capitalise on the first few frames and I did well to stay in and am pleased to reach another UK final.
“I knew he was playing well because I saw his results and he looked to be cueing well. I knew I had to play decent to get through.”
Maguire added: “It would have been nice to get to 5-5 and see what happens. He was starting to rock a little bit because nobody likes it when you come back on them. I just did not get a chance.”
O’Sullivan improving with age
O’Sullivan is aiming to equal Steve Davis’ haul of six UK titles and victory would also draw him level with Stephen Hendry’s 18 ‘Triple Crown’ triumphs in the BBC’s World, UK and Masters events.
At 42 years old, it will also be his third ranking final of an outstanding season, having already claimed the English Open and Shanghai Masters, as well as finishing runner-up in two invitational events.
The second frame was crucial as Maguire could have levelled at 1-1 but missed a simple final black off the spot, allowing O’Sullivan to take it.
The mid-session interval seemed to help Maguire, who hit back by winning four of the next five frames, but O’Sullivan progressed with a 63 break after his opponent’s poor safety.
O’Sullivan said he has had to “battle and battle” for form this year, and feels he has yet to hit the heights of 12 months ago despite that final loss to Selby.
“You have to tough it out sometimes,” added O’Sullivan.
“There is no player in the game who can play badly and win apart from Mark Selby, he is the only guy. This week I have not been at my best but I have dug in and it is all down to positive mental attitude.
“For me, Selby is in his prime. He has not done well in this tournament but he has won a title this season. He is definitely the best player in the world and I am able to give him a game on my day.
“It is about consistency and he has had that over the last few years.”
O’Sullivan saw a 4-0 lead over Maguire reduced to just one frame at 5-4, but he secured victory in the tenth frame to reach his seventh UK final. He has won five of his previous six; his only defeat coming last year in York against Mark Selby.
The Rocket will meet Shaun Murphy or Ryan Day over 19 frames on Sunday with the winner to bank £170,000. Victory would see O’Sullivan match two significant records: Steve Davis’s six UK titles and Stephen Hendry’s 18 Triple Crown wins.
World number four O’Sullivan is also aiming to win his 31st career ranking title and third within seven weeks having captured the English Open trophy in October and the Shanghai Masters in November. He is into his fifth final of the season having finished runner-up at the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions. At the age of 42, O’Sullivan is playing arguably the most consistently impressive snooker of his career.
Maguire misses out the chance to double his tally of UK titles, having lifted the trophy in 2004. Defeat today also means he is out of the running in the race to the Masters, with Liang Wenbo hanging on to the 16th and final spot.*
O’Sullivan made a 61 clearance to win the opening frame. The second came down to the colours and Maguire thumped in a long pink but then missed a relatively simple black to a top corner. After a safety exchange the Scot went for an other long pot but left the black in the jaws, and his opponent converted for 2-0. Runs of 54 and 64 helped O’Sullivan lead 4-0 at the interval.
Maguire took the next two, including a break of 91 in frame six, and he had first chance in frame seven but missed the yellow to a baulk corner on 22. O’Sullivan’s 111 put him 5-2 ahead.
World number 20 Maguire continued to battle and compiled runs of 51 and 129 to close to 5-4. But a loose safety when he trailed 21-6 in frame ten allowed O’Sullivan to pot a red to a centre pocket which set up a match-winning break of 63.
“Stephen is a quality player and I expected some kind of resistance,” said O’Sullivan, who has not faced a top 16-ranked player so far in this event. “I just tried to keep my patience and wait for the chance to pounce. I’ve got lucky that other players have struggled against me this week. I suppose to get to the final having not played my best is not a bad thing.
“I was listening to an interview with Mark Selby and he said he’d much rather play well and lose than play badly and win. I thought ‘yeah, that’s how I feel.’ Me and Mark played last year in the final and even though I lost I still came off thinking ‘I enjoyed that, it was a good workout.’ This week I’ve really had to battle and I’ve just scrambled through.”
Maguire said: “I just didn’t settle until 4-0 down. I put up a bit of a fight but I’d lost it in the first four frames. I was always positive because I felt as if I was cueing okay and potting the balls.
“It would have been nice to get to 5-5 and see what happened because he was obviously starting to rock a little bit. I just didn’t get a chance in that 10th frame and that’s disappointing.
“I hate losing and I lost that before the interval which I’m gutted about. At the end there I fancied the job. I wasn’t even looking at the scoreboard, I just fancied it if I got in the balls. It was just a pity that it came too late.”
*The line up for the Masters is now confirmed, below are the 16 players. These are not necessarily in seeding order as the seeding will be confirmed at the end of the Betway UK Championship. The draw for the Masters will be done on Sunday. Tickets for the event at Alexandra Palace (January 14-21) are available now, for details click here
Videos od interest:
The BBC intro and players walk-on:
The match preview (ES):
The match midsession (ES):
The match review with Ronnie’s interview with ES: