Ronnie book his place in the quarter-finals at the 2021 UK Championship yesterday afternoon. He beat Noppon Saengkham by 6-3 but it was far from a comfortable win: Ronnie really struggled during the first half of the match.
Here are the scores:
And the match stats
O’Sullivan Digs In To Beat Saengkham
Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted to feeling nervous during his clash with Noppon Saengkham at the Cazoo UK Championship, but came from 3-2 down to win 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals.
Thailand’s Saengkham crucially missed chances to go 4-2 ahead when he looked to have the momentum, and O’Sullivan punished him as he made his way to the last eight of this event for the 18th time. He will meet Kyren Wilson or Ben Woollaston on Friday.
Saengkham knocked out Stuart Bingham earlier in the week and posed a serious challenge to O’Sullivan’s bid to win this title for an eighth time. The Thai took the opening frame, then world number three O’Sullivan made a break of 76 for 1-1. Saengkham regained the lead with an 83 before O’Sullivan’s 98 made it 2-2 at the interval.
In frame five, Saengkham trailed 57-6 when he converted a fantastic long pot on a red which was close to a side cushion, and that set him up for a 59 clearance to give him the lead for the third time. The world number 45 had clear opportunities to extend his advantage in the sixth, notably missing the third last red to a top corner when he led 48-14. The frame came down to the colours and a missed yellow from Saengkham allowed O’Sullivan to clear and level at 3-3.
That proved the turning point as O’Sullivan won the last three frames in just 29 minutes with top breaks of 74 and 120.
“At 3-2 down I nearly gave up, I was struggling,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport. “But I dug in and kept applying myself. I should have gone 4-2 down, but when I won that frame something clicked and I was off and running again.
“I get butterflies, I get nervous. I’m under pressure in every match, you just try to disguise it and try to stay calm and relaxed. Everyone feels pressure, even the greats – I’ve heard of some of them being sick in the dressing room before going out. Maybe that doesn’t happen in team sports, but snooker is a tough one.
“I prefer watching snooker and talking about it than actually playing it. But I have to force myself to get a bit more juice out of playing. It’s going to end at some point but I’ll get as much out of it as I can. I used to hate watching it, but once you start doing punditry you start to enjoy it and get excited. I play for a hobby, not for a job.”
O’Sullivan first won this title 28 years ago and he turns 46 on the day of the final on Sunday. He added: “I no longer think my best is better than everyone else’s. Will I be comfortable with that? Winning is not so important. If I can be the best 46-year-old and compete with Higgins, Williams and people in that category, that’s enough. It’s only a matter of time before the younger guys start winning tournaments.
“I’m comfortable with losing and still having a smile on my face. Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis couldn’t accept that, while Jimmy White and I are fascinated by the game and just enjoy playing.”
O’SULLIVAN 6-3 SAENGKHAM
Some Ronnie stats to chew over:
Total points 634
Balls potted 181
Pot success 93%
Long pot success 57%
Safety success 74%
Hghest break 120
O’SULLIVAN 6-3 SAENGKHAM
All done and dusted and in some style as a break of 120 secures O’Sullivan’s passage to the quarter finals. He will have a day off tomorrow, before facing either Kyren Wilson or Ben Woollaston as he continues his quest for a 38th ranking title.
There is a steely determination about the Rocket this week, as he weathered a storm from Noppon before taking control of the match.
O’SULLIVAN 5-3 SAENGKHAM (24-7)
Ronnie is one of the very best at closing out matches, and in a couple of shots a difficult table looks promising as he frees the black.
O’SULLIVAN 5-3 SAENGKHAM (0-7)
Noppon edges a safety battle and has a chance. He needs to take it in order to stem the bleeding. He does not, as a red into the right corner, one he was making earlier in the match, stays above ground. Chance for O’Sullivan.
O’SULLIVAN 5-3 SAENGKHAM (0-1)
O’Sullivan is one frame away and this performance has been typical of his efforts in York. He’s been a step short of his best but has been prepared to roll his sleeves up and battle. He’s still got to get over the line, but if he finds his best form, watch out!
O’SULLIVAN 4-3 SAENGKHAM (92-0)
Noppon is continuing in attack mode and an audacious effort down the right rail just fails to drop, but he gets a slice of fortune as he covers the pocket. Noppon rolls the dice again, but this time he is out of luck and hands a second chance to O’Sullivan who knocks in a break of 48 to move within one frame of victory.
O’SULLIVAN 4-3 SAENGKHAM (44-0)
It’s now Noppon who is making errors and this one looks costly as O’Sullivan knocks a red into the centre of the pocket of the bottom right. He gets to 44, but runs out of position. Noppon is still alive.
O’SULLIVAN 3-3 SAENGKHAM (74-14)
Accelerating like a Ferrari, O’Sullivan races through the gears with a glorious break of 74. For the first time in the match, he has the cue ball under tight control and it shows with a superb contribution. A red does not drop into the left middle and Noppon comes back to the table, but it does not come to anything as O’Sullivan moves into the lead.
O’SULLIVAN 3-3 SAENGKHAM (16-0)
An excellent starting red from O’Sullivan, beautifully cued into the bottom left. The split of the reds is not brilliant, but he has one into the left middle and is up and running in the seventh.
O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (64-48)
Ronnie does not pot the yellow, but gets a second bite as Noppon’s effort at a fiendishly difficult yellow does not drop. His attacking play is a good sign, but there are times when erring on the side of caution is the way to go. Ronnie mops up the colours to draw level. Turning points, anyone?
O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (37-48)
It’s more miss than hit at the moment, with Noppon missing a red into the left corner, O’Sullivan following with a miss into the right middle and Noppon hitting back by missing another to the bottom left. O’Sullivan finally gets in and is back in the frame with on red remaining on the table. He knocks in a glorious red along the bottom rail and has a massive chance.
O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (14-29)
The black O’Sullivan missed in the previous frame came as a surprise. Surprise was more like shock in the sixth, as he missed a simple blue into the right middle. He was trying to force it coming in and out of baulk, but it was not good. Noppon misses shortly afterwards and it’s getting very edgy – and we’re only in the sixth frame.
O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (1-22)
Commentator’s curse strikes as he misses an albeit tough red into the left middle and it hands O’Sullivan an easy starter.
O’SULLIVAN 2-3 SAENGKHAM (0-22)
Noppon gets a lovely split of the pack off the black and he’s in with a great chance again. After the previous clearance, he is full of confidence.
O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM (57-65)
Noppon knocks in a fantastic red down the right rail to get his chance. He takes full advantage with a clearance of 59 for an unlikely steal. O’Sullivan had the frame at his mercy but missed the black. I’m sure someone somewhere is talking about turning points and momentum shifts.
O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM (57-1)
Ronnie gets in again off the back of a poor safety from Noppon. Handing chances to arguably the greatest player to pick up a cue is not the wisest strategy, but O’Sullivan breaks down on 45 when missing a black into the left corner.
“The black stays out, incredible,” said David Hendon on Eurosport comms. True, very true.
Frame is still alive.
O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM (12-0)
Noppon misses a long red by some distance and O’Sullivan gets in and immediately splits the pack. An excellent red goes cleanly into the left middle, but he runs out of position and misses a long red. It’s still very stop-start.
O’SULLIVAN 2-2 SAENGKHAM
We’ve back underway with the match well poised. Will Ronnie find another gear, or is Noppon primed to keep the shocks coming?
“Ronnie took quite a bit of time to settle,” White said. “He’s not really got going.
“I think we are going to see some bigger breaks and better quality after the interval.”
O’SULLIVAN 1-2 SAENGKHAM (98-8)
O’Sullivan’s break reaches 33, and the crucial split of the reds from the blue works a treat. With reds split nicely, he knocks in a break of 98 to draw level at the interval. It was a good break, but the cue ball got away from time to time suggesting he is still not fully happy with the table. He’s spoken before about enjoying difficult conditions as he seems them as a challenge. We’ll find out if that’s the case after the interval. See you shortly.
O’SULLIVAN 1-2 SAENGKHAM (12-8)
A good safety from O’Sullivan draws a mistake from Noppon and with his hand on the table, Ronnie knocks in a good starting red and he’s in the balls. He could do with a decent contribution to settle things.
O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-117)
Noppon knocks an excellent long red into the green pocket and it’s an excellent chance. This time he takes full advantage, as a break of 83 is enough to secure the third frame. The camera pans to O’Sullivan who now knows he is in a match.
O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-34)
Noppon does not take full advantage as he break down on 33. Fortunately, he’s not left Ronnie an easy starter and it’s a case of O’Sullivan being patient as his opponent is having a favourable run of the balls.
O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-20)
Noppon has a hug slice of luck as a missed red flies round the table, flicks the pink and drops into the middle. He has an excellent chance with the balls favourably split.
O’SULLIVAN 1-1 SAENGKHAM (5-1)
Tense stuff at the start of the third. O’Sullivan lays an excellent safety after Noppon missed a routine blue into the middle – with his mind more on splitting the pack. O’Sullivan not at his best yet, he’s playing solid snooker.
O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (106-8)
It appears it was the marker who alerted the referee to the issue, but after everything settles down O’Sullivan gets back to the table and mops up a break of 76 to level the match.
O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (30-8)
In an amazing act of sportsmanship, O’Sullivan called the miss rule on himself. He missed the brown twice and should have been warned by the referee, as the black was available to hit. O’Sullivan told the referee.
O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (30-4)
O’Sullivan looks good with a break of 30, but runs out of position and fouls trying to get a safety on the brown.
O’SULLIVAN 0-1 SAENGKHAM (11-0)
Noppon plays what looks a good safety, but Ronnie sees a long plant to the bottom left and he manoeuvres the first red onto the second and he’s at the table with a chance.
“Well played from Ronnie O’Sullivan who had no choice but to play the shot,” Dale said.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (18-91)
O’Sullivan plays on requiring snookers, but it appears more a case of him getting a feel for the table.
Noppon knocks in a red and finally seals the opening frame.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (13-77)
A massive error from O’Sullivan who fouls the black attempting a safety and it allows Noppon to take a commanding lead in the frame.
“Ronnie has a bit to think about early in this match,” Dale said.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (13-43)
Dale faces Ronnie in the first round of the Scottish Open next week. And jokingly, Dale said: “Let’s hope Ronnie gets to the final here, has a really long game and opts not to play in the Scottish Open.”
On the table, we have a safety battle.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (5-43)
O’Sullivan goes desperately close with a long red, but it wiggles in the right corner. Noppon plays an awful safety to let Ronnie in, but he misses a black off the spot – not for the first time this week – and it’s all a bit nervy.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (4-43)
Noppon’s breaks comes unstuck on 32 as he fails to get a cannon on a red from the black. It’s a decent lead, but he’d have hoped for more.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (4-27)
Dominic Dale on Eurosport comms impressed with Noppon’s tip. “I’ve never seen a top quite like it, it’s like a fruit pastille.”
It seems to be working as he knocks in another long red and is in with a chance.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM (4-6)
A nerve-settler for Noppon who knocks in an excellent long red, but he is unable to take full advantage and runs for cover.
O’SULLIVAN 0-0 SAENGKHAM
An unfortunate start for Noppon who goes in-off with his opening shot, but better there than at the bottom end of the table. No damage done in the end.
HERE WE GO
MC Rob Walker is doing his thing (sadly for Rob, John Higgins is out so he can’t make a bad joke about him losing loads of weight) and the players are in the arena.
“I normally feel pretty strong towards the end of tournaments,” O’Sullivan said. “I never struggle to want to play, but sometimes think ‘do I want to give blood, sweat and tears?”
Ronnie O’Sullivan has never lost to Noppon, but is wary of his opponent
“He is a very dedicated, very attacking, very aggressive player,” O’Sullivan said. “I am going to have to play well. Stick to my own game and see how it works out.“
UK Snooker Championship 2021: Ronnie O’Sullivan reaches quarter-final
By Shamoon Hafez BBC Sport
O’Sullivan’s last UK title triumph came in 2018
Record seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed a routine 6-3 win over Noppon Saengkham to reach the quarter-finals of the UK Championship.
Thailand’s Saengkham held his own in first four frames, making 83 in between O’Sullivan’s 76 and 98 breaks for 2-2.
He edged 3-2 ahead but O’Sullivan reeled off four frames in a row, including a century, to seal the match.
O’Sullivan will face Kyren Wilson or Ben Woollaston in the next round on Friday at the Barbican Centre in York.
‘I no longer think my best is better than anyone else’s best’
‘The Rocket’ is firm favourite to lift the trophy for the eighth time after seeing heavyweights including defending champion Neil Robertson, world champion Mark Selby and Judd Trump all make early exits.
“Winning tournaments is not going to make a difference to my life,” O’Sullivan told BBC Two. “It would be great, but we all have different perspectives and at this stage in my career I don’t get excited by winning tournaments. I get excited by having a good life.
“I have been relaxed for a while. I much prefer watching and talking about it than playing it, I have to force myself to get some juice out of it. It is going to end at some point so might as well try and get as much out of it.
“I no longer think my best is better than anyone else’s best. That is always a sign, will I be comfortable with that?
“Winning is not so important, it is not going to change anything. If I can be the best 46-year-old in the world and can compete with John Higgins, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson, in that age category, then I am quite comfortable with losing and putting a smile on my face.”
The 45-year-old was far from his fluent best, but showed his proven class as he fought back from behind to triumph.
In control at 3-2 ahead, Saengkham had opportunities for a two-frame advantage, but he did not capitalise when in among the balls and O’Sullivan to begin his revival.
He did not lose a frame thereafter and finished off the match in style with a composed 120 clearance.
O’Sullivan added: “I don’t even talk about my games anymore, I just get upset thinking about it. Leave it out there, it is what it was. I am still in the tournament.
“Every match you get spells like that. At 3-2 I nearly gave up, but I kept applying myself because I was struggling. Something clicked and I was off and running again.
“Everybody is under pressure, it is that type of game. I have heard greats being sick in the dressing room before they went out. In team sports you get people to help you out but snooker is a tough one.”
Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry on BBC Two:
“That is what O’Sullivan does, as soon as Saengkham gave him the opportunity, we said put the chair in. He is the best that has ever been at clearing matches out and getting over the line. There is no hesitation, he knows what he has to do and I thought it would be the last visit of the match.”
BBC Sport pundit Joe Perry:
“The best thing about that for me was that he didn’t look at this best but went 3-3 and it flicked a switch, there was only one winner after that. It is incredible how he can go through the gears so quickly.
“You can’t let the top players off, once they sense a little bit of weakness they will trample all over you.“
‘I don’t care. I’m going to have a couple of Guinnesses tonight ’ – Ronnie O’Sullivan’s view on UK Championship
Ronnie O’Sullivan may be closing in on more snooker history in York, but the 45-year-old continues to give the distinct impression he would rather be anywhere else than on the cusp of a record eighth UK snooker title.
After reeling off the last four frames to sink Noppon Saengkham 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals, O’Sullivan insisted he had no interest in his performance, and shrugged off the prospect of claiming the crown on his 46th birthday on Sunday.
O’Sullivan insisted: “I don’t care – if I win it, great, and if I don’t it will have no impact on my life and what I do. If anything I’d rather be sitting with Jimmy (White), having a laugh.
“I really don’t celebrate birthdays to be honest. I don’t get excited by that either. I get excited by my work and some little projects I’m working on.”
Even a break of 120 to wrap up a tight contest in which he had looked out-of-sorts in the early stages failed to kindle any evident enthusiasm in O’Sullivan, who will return for his last eight match on Friday.
“I’m just happy to be through and still in the tournament,” added O’Sullivan. “It is what it is out there. I really haven’t got a clue how it all works.
“I don’t care, I really have no interest. I’m going to have a couple of Guinnesses tonight and a bit of mulled wine and some nice food.”
Of course an Irish paper had to mention Guiness …
For what it’s worth, here are my views on Ronnie’s comments: I’m certain that he would be delighted to add to his tally of Triple Crown events and that he feels it out there because he does care. On the other hand, he doesn’t want the pressure everyone piles on him, especially now that he is the highest ranked player remaining in the tournament and seen as the “favourite”. There was nothing in his game yesterday to justify that tag. He had to cope with that pressure and huge expectations for nearly 30 years, they have sometimes been his downfall. He doesn’t want that anymore. He doesn’t want to hurt anymore. He has nothing to prove.
To me, the most “authentic” and revealing is this last one – I promise – by Hector Nunns. Hector is someone Ronnie trusts because they have known each other for many, many years, and he knows that Hector will not misrepresent his quotes for the sake of sensationalism.
Ronnie O’Sullivan: I’d Rather Be A Monk Than Take Snooker Too Seriously
Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he will never go back to treating snooker like a ‘proper job’ – and would rather go and be a monk. The Rocket moved up through the gears against Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham at the UK Championship to seal a 6-3 victory at the York Barbican on Wednesday.
World No3 O’Sullivan is hoping to celebrate his 46th birthday on Sunday by extending his own record with an eighth UK title success. But the winner of 20 Triple Crown tournaments says that while he remains professional about his craft, the game will never again drive him to distraction.
O’Sullivan, who at one time studied Buddhism, said: “Everyone is under pressure, don’t believe anyone who says they aren’t, it’s that type of game. Even the greats – I know of one great player, that I won’t name, who was often sick in the dressing room before going out.
“I still get butterflies and nerves – but I prefer watching and talking about snooker to playing it these days, and I have to force myself to get some more juice out of it. It will all end sometime.
“It is hard going out there, I reckon if you asked most players if they’d rather a job in TV they’d rather that than be sweating and under pressure.
“And I’m not that person anyway, I would sooner retire and go and be a monk and meditate 12 hours a day than do hard labour, even if I’ll always work at my game.
“I no longer think my best is better than everyone else’s best, so that’s always a sign of what might be to come in the future. I’m still in, and the win’s everything. I did manage to finish it at the first attempt 6-3 – you don’t get paid for overtime, do you?
“I almost gave up at 3-2 down, I was struggling and he should have been 4-2. But something clicked and I was off and running again.
“I just want to be the best 46-year-old snooker player in the world, competing with the John Higginses and the Mark Williamses, and maybe even the Neil Robertsons.
“But it’s only a matter of time until the younger guys start winning titles. And I am comfortable with losing and still smiling, where Stephen Hendry couldn’t do that.
“I have to try still because there is a crowd out there, the fans have been loyal to me and I would never sell them short. Today was a day where I dug in. Anyone left in this is there by right, they are there because they have beaten people.”
Ronnie will need to play better in the quarter-finals, and, importantly, to start the match better. He will face Kyren Wilson who was impressive yesterday evening, especially before the MSI.