Ronnie beat his good friend Liang Wenbo by 6-2 yesterday to book his place in the final today. He will play Fan Zhengyi, 25 years his junior.
Here are the scores:
It’s impressive but it could and probably should have been 6-1. In frame 7, Ronnie had Liang snookered behind the blue. When Liang failed to hit a red, Ronnie could have put him back. However, he elected to play instead. He needed just one red and Liang would have needed penalty points, he went for a far from straightforward red, failed to pot it and Liang came back from there. After that, Ronnie looked rather cross at himself.
O’Sullivan Reaches 60th Ranking Final
In Sunday’s final in Milton Keynes, O’Sullivan will meet Fan Zhengyi, a player aged 25 years younger and 78 places lower in the world rankings. The Rocket starts a huge favourite to win this trophy for the first time and take the £80,000 top prize – though he’ll be wary of a repeat of last season’s BetVictor Welsh Open final when he lost to massive underdog Jordan Brown.
Victory for O’Sullivan would give him his second title of the season having won the Cazoo World Grand Prix in December, and would extend his record of career ranking crowns, ahead of second-placed Stephen Hendry who has 36.
Chigwell’s 46-year-old O’Sullivan will be playing in his 60th ranking event final, a remarkable 29 years after the first when he beat Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship. This week he could win the title without facing a player inside the world’s top 25, but perhaps few opponents could have survived his scoring power as he has fired nine centuries and 18 more breaks over 50 in his six matches so far.
In the opening frame tonight he missed a red to a top corner on 50 and Liang got the start he needed with a 74 clearance. The Chinese cueman could have made it 2-0 but missed the yellow – attempting to split the pack – on 42 in frame two and his opponent cleared with 81.
Again in frame three Liang had first chance, but only compiled 27 before failing to convert a difficult red to a top corner. World number two O’Sullivan punished him with a run of 72 then pulled away with 60, 127 and 109 to lead 5-1.
In frame seven, O’Sullivan was on the verge of victory when he led 64-11, but a missed mid-range red handed Liang the chance to make a superb 56 clearance. The eighth lasted 41 minutes and came down to a long safety battle on the green, O’Sullivan eventually coming out on top and potting green and brown to secure his progress.
“I would have been really happy to see Liang win because I know how much he puts into the game,” said O’Sullivan, who will go £33,500 clear at the top of the BetVictor Series rankings if he wins the final. “I know how much he loves the game. I am very close to him and I want to see him do well and have the best life he can possibly have.
“If winning tournaments makes him happy then that makes me happy. He makes me laugh, he’s a great character for the game. He’s got a clean heart and a beautiful soul. But you have to do a job, a packed crowd had come to see the match and I had to do my best.
“Ding Junhui and Liang have done a lot for grassroots snooker in China. They have brilliant academies there and in the UK. They are geared up to take over and dominate the game. It’s happening now but I think in ten years it will be like table tennis, every snooker player will probably be from Asia. I have a great love for China, their culture and their people, they are so nice to me when I go out there. I do my best to support their players, they are lovely boys. I want pass on a bit of knowledge and experience to them because I am a snooker fan and I want them to do well.
“I am under no illusions, I am not as dominant as I used to be. I can still score a few when I am on my game, I am a handful, I just don’t do it often enough or consistently enough. I miss balls here and there. I am not the player I was and I never will be. But I enjoy playing, I enjoy the lifestyle. If I can get another three World Championships out of my career then great. After that I’ll look to play at a lower level, do some exhibitions, have some academies in China and just have involvement in the game that way.”
The best-of-19 final gets underway at 1pm with eight frames, with the balance to be played from 7pm.
This is the post-match shared by WST on their YouTube channel
There are more quotes by Ronnie in this piece by Hector Nunns:
“I am old enough to be his grandad at 25 years older! Mind you, it seems like pretty much everyone I play these days. I’m not doing bad for a grandad.
“It may be a surprise to see Fan in the final, but it was a surprise when I got to the UK final at 17, so everyone has to cause a surprise at some point. I think Tiger Woods did that winning his first green jacket at the Masters. But people I respect in Sheffield say he is a very good player.
“Rankings don’t mean anything, it is all about form on the day. Winning a 39th ranking title wouldn’t mean too much to me, though.
“Liang is a good friend, I love him, in fact he is like a brother to me. I looked up in the crowd and I could see his son sitting there and I know how much he loves playing, he is a good player.
“Part of me almost wanted Liang to win, I am closer to him than some of my own family. I am glad if people enjoyed the match, from my perspective I am always working on stuff. The result isn’t really important.
“I have talked about snooker depression and anxiety this week, but winning the title won’t help that, in fact it might make it worse. And whatever happens, if mentally I don’t feel good about playing in Wales next week on Monday…that is hard.
“I like a smiley face, not a miserable face and if I think I’ll be miserable next week after getting to the final here then sometimes you have to do the right thing for yourself. I’ll wait and see on playing in that, if I am at a low ebb I’ll haver to make a decision.”
I’m not too sure about being a granddad at 25 but hey…
I don’t think Ronnie was in a great place yesterday after that match. Hopefully he will feel more positive today. He should win this final given the gulf of experience between him and Fan, as well as the scoring power he has shown all week. But of course, nothing is ever guaranteed in sport.