Down to one table…
Semi Finals Saturday saw Ronnie book his place in his fifth final of the season so far, and his seventh UK Final and you can read all about it here
Shaun Murphy joined him in the evening.
Murphy beat O’Sullivan 10-8 in the final of the Champion of Champions last month and will hope for the same result over another best-of-19 battle in York on Sunday. The winner will bank the £170,000 top prize and capture the first Triple Crown title of the season.
World number six Murphy won this event in 2008 and lost to Mark Selby in the 2012 final. He is aiming for the fourth Triple Crown success of his career having won the World Championship in 2005 and the Masters in 2015.
Nottingham-based Murphy has been in fine form in recent months, reaching the final of the China Championship and the Paul Hunter Classic as well as winning the Champion of Champions. The 35-year-old is aiming for his eighth career ranking title.
A break of 104 gave Murphy the opening frame tonight and he had a chance to take the second from 45-5 down but snookered himself on the last red, allowing Day to level at 1-1. Murphy then stepped up a gear with runs of 73, 89 and 135 to lead 4-1.
Day took frame six with a 61 and had first chance in frame seven but only made 30 before missing a red to a centre pocket. Murphy’s 70 put him within one frame of victory at 5-2.
Pontycymmer’s Day pulled one back with a break of 128 but Murphy clinched the result in frame nine with runs of 59 and 22.
“I played well, scored heavily and my safety was ok,” said Murphy who – like O’Sullivan – has not had to beat a top-16 ranked player to reach the final. “Ryan is so dangerous and he believes he can beat anyone.
“Tomorrow is one of the biggest matches of the season alongside the Masters and World Championship finals. I’ll be playing Ronnie in the final of a Triple Crown event for the first time and that’s a dream come true for me because he’s the best player of all time. I can’t wait.
“The fact that I beat him in the Champion of Champions final recently means I know I can get to ten frames before him. But I’ll have to bring all the departments of my game to the party. I love watching him play but hopefully I won’t spend too much time sitting in my chair doing that.
“Ronnie is a sporting phenomenon and we’re lucky to be playing in the same era. He will turn up tomorrow, the question is whether I can settle down and not be a rabbit in the headlights.”
So, today, we have a “rematch” of the Champion of Champions 2017 final in Coventry just 4 weeks ago. I’m certain that both players will be up for this and hopefully it will be a good match. As a Ronnie fan, I wish for a different outcome of course…
So what do each of them need to do to win?
Shaun needs to get to a good start and play the way he has throughout this event, attacking, getting in early thanks to his reliable long potting and keep his opponent cold and unable to build up a rhythm. He will want to apply pressure from the word go.
Ronnie needs to prevent Shaun to play this type of all attack game, he needs to keep it tight(er) not giving easy(ish) openings from the breakoff or early exchanges. And he will need all his concentration to cut out basic mistakes. Ronnie is the better safety player of the two, and he’s shown outstanding battling qualities over the last two months. He’ll need all of that today to stand a chance to win.
Prediction? I don’t have one. Both will be totally up for it. Shaun is probably by far the fresher of the two, and he’s the youngest too, he went out in the first round in both events before this one, he didn’t travel to Shanghai. He’s had nearly three weeks of rest before this tournament. But Ronnie, whatever he says, is a competitive animal of the highest order, he keeps himself fit and he will want this.