It wasn’t the match most expected, as Stuart Bingham didn’t play anywhere near his best and Ronnie wasn’t that sharp either but he got the job done. Ronnie admitted in the studio that he hadn’t slept well … which in a way is reassuring, because he wasn’t as reliable in the balls as he has been earlier this season.
That said, more than the two centuries, it was the way he finished that pleased me. It looked like going 5-3, when Stuart missed being 67-1 ahead with 67 on the table. The way the last frame and a half had gone, it looked like mission impossible. But Ronnie played a fantastic mid-long red to start the fight back. He needed all blacks with the remaining reds to win by one point. This proved impossible, he chose to play position on pink instead of risking a nearly impossible black. He could then only level. A re-spotted black it was … and both played it well, but eventually it was Stuart who made the mistake.
On a day when The Spectator magazine described O’Sullivan‘ as the most skilful sportsperson the world has ever seen’, he showed off his unique talent to a 2,000-strong full house at Alexandra Palace. The Rocket now faces Ryan Day on Thursday afternoon.
World number three O’Sullivan won the Masters for a record seventh time in 2017, and he set another new record at last month’s UK Championship when he landed a 19th Triple Crown title. In perhaps the best form of his career at the age of 43, he has won three of the five tournaments he has contested this season, losing just two out of 29 matches. And on today’s evidence, his game remains razor sharp.
After losing a scrappy opening frame, O’Sullivan won five in a row with breaks of 59, 96, 134, 111 and 60. The two centuries took his career tally to 988, just 12 short of the landmark of 1,000 he will surely reach over the coming weeks.
Bingham pulled one back with a 71 and made 62 in the next. But his hopes of recovering to 5-3 were soon dashed. O’Sullivan made a 66 clearance to force a respotted black, then got the better of a safety exchange before slotting the black into a top corner.
O’Sullivan admitted a lack of sleep had left him tired during today’s match. “Hopefully I can feel a bit fresher on Thursday,” he said. “I’ve had insomnia for about seven or eight years. Sometimes it’s alright and sometimes it’s not. Last night I was absolutely shattered and I’m just relieved to get over the line today.”
He was also asked about tennis player Andy Murray whose career may have come to an end today due to injury. O’Sullivan said: “I’ve never met the guy, but obviously he’s done amazingly well to break the mould. For a lot of British tennis players, a bit like the football team, it was ingrained in them to just be happy with the semi-final or make the final and that would be classed as a victory. He’s probably one of our best sportsmen of all time.”
Bingham said: “It was definitely a below-par performance. I had a chance in more or less every frame, but I just couldn’t seem to get hold of the white. I just needed to settle down but from 1-1 Ronnie played one visit snooker. He’s the best player in the world, and you aren’t going to get a second chance when you leave him in the balls.
“It’s more embarrassing when you played like that in front of a packed crowd. I just couldn’t seem to get going.
“It’s my daughter’s second birthday today so not the birthday present I wanted for her but I’ll spend the day with her now.”
Seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan eased past Stuart Bingham 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Masters.
Bingham took a scrappy opener but O’Sullivan soon got into his rhythm with breaks of 96, 134, 111 and 60 on the way to five frames in a row.
A run of 71 pulled one back for Bingham but O’Sullivan made 66 and pinched the eighth on a nervy, re-spotted black to progress and faces Ryan Day next.
This was O’Sullivan first match since winning a record seventh UK Championship title in York on 9 December and his 19 Triple Crown event triumphs – which includes five World Championships – is the most of any player.
Though he made a slow start in the first round against Bingham in London, his two centuries in the match took him to 988 in his career as he aims to become the first player to 1,000.
Bingham was 66 ahead in what turned out to be the last frame as O’Sullivan potted four blacks and a pink with five reds to force a re-spotted black and after an exchange of 14 shots, O’Sullivan stroked it in to go through.
O’Sullivan told BBC TV: “It is hard to analyse how you played but I tried to be as professional and disciplined and draw on all my experience. It was getting tense and I was relieved to get over the line.
“He looked like he was getting stronger at the end. I made a few mistakes, let him in and the game can punish you sometimes. You have to put your foot to the metal and go as hard as you can for as long as you can.
“I have been in 12 finals and only won seven, I should have won a few more, I have thrown a few away (from winning positions).
“I can play for another 10 years but I get tired now. I have had insomnia for seven years and it catches you out sometimes, I felt really tired today. I was not sure how I would do but the adrenaline kicked in and you hit a slump again but it kicks in again.”
Ronnie’s postmatch with Rob Walker
And to conclude some great images, thanks to Tai Chengzhe