Ronnie booked his place in the semi-finals of the 2022 Tour Championship with a 10-9 victory over Mark Williams. It was a truly magnificent match.
These are the scores:
and the stats after each session:
Here are the reports by WST:
Rocket Opens Up Llandudno Lead
Ronnie O’Sullivan holds a 5-3 advantage over Mark Williams following the first session of their Cazoo Tour Championship opening round encounter in Llandudno.
The Rocket enjoys a dominant record against three-time World Champion Williams, having only lost once in a ranking event to the Welshman in the previous 20 years. The last time Williams beat six-time Crucible king O’Sullivan over two sessions in a ranking event was 22 years ago in the 2000 UK Championship semi-finals.
A cagey opening frame lasted 29 minutes today, with Williams eventually coming out on top. However, 38-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan quickly found his feet with breaks of 56, 84 and 131 to lead 3-1 at the mid-session.
Williams closed within a frame at 3-2 when play resumed, before a superb century run of 128 saw O’Sullivan regain his two-frame cushion. Williams fired in a 92 break to pull within a frame, but 89 from the Rocket in the eighth frame was enough to end 5-3 ahead.
O’Sullivan Wins Clash Of 92
Ronnie O’Sullivan fired in five centuries during a thrilling triumph over fellow Class of 92 member Mark Williams, edging the deciding frame to come through a 10-9 victor at the Cazoo Tour Championship in Llandudno.
From the second frame onwards the Rocket never trailed this back and forth encounter, but three-time Crucible king Williams refused to let him pull away and remained in contention right until the conclusion of a nerve shredding decider.
Victory extends an undefeated streak for 38-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan which goes back 22 years. The last time he lost to Williams over two sessions was the semi-finals of the 2000 UK Championship.
O’Sullivan has also now won their last six meetings in ranking events, with Williams’ most recent win between the pair occurring back at the 2014 International Championship.
Defending champion Neil Robertson awaits O’Sullivan in the semi-finals on Friday. It is a meeting between the two tournament winners in this season’s Cazoo Series. O’Sullivan beat Robertson in the final of the Cazoo World Grand Prix back in December, while Robertson claimed the title at last month’s Cazoo Players Championship.
Williams will now turn his attentions to the upcoming World Championship. He can take confidence from a superb showing this evening and a strong season to boot. The Welshman won the 24th ranking title of his career last August at the British Open.
They came into this evening with O’Sullivan, who will return to the world number one spot at the end of this week, leading 5-3. Williams turned up the heat immediately with a century run of 103 to pull within a frame, but six-time World Champion O’Sullivan responded in kind and a break of 100 moved him 6-4 in front.
UFC star Paddy Pimblett enjoying the action.
With UFC star Paddy Pimblett watching on, these baize based prize fighters continued to trade breaks. Williams composed a run of 89, before O’Sullivan made 75 to head into the mid-session with a 7-5 lead.
When play resumed, Williams claimed two on the bounce to restore parity at 7-7. He then led 24-0 in the 15th frame, but inadvertently potted the pink when going into the pack. O’Sullivan mercilessly capitalised on his opponent’s misfortune, firing in a break of 106 to regain the lead.
Williams restored parity, before a run of 127 moved O’Sullivan a frame from victory at 9-8. The 18th frame came down to the yellow, with the outcome very much in the balance. Williams conjured a superb cut back long pot and cleared to the pink to force a decider.
After both players spurned chances to win, it all came down to the final red. Williams missed a long range attempt and O’Sullivan cleared to the pink to secure victory.
“It is probably the best he has ever played against me and the best I’ve ever played against him. For us to both play well together is quite rare,” said 46-year-old O’Sullivan.
“I was shocked when someone told me I will be world number one. It is a bit like when I won the world title after a year out. I was shocked I was able to do that and I am a little bit surprised that I am able to get to world number one at this stage of my career. I am going to try to be the first old aged pensioner to be in the top eight. That would be some feat.
“I was feeling the butterflies. It is impossible not to. My mindset is not to get too flustered by winning or losing anymore. I am going to squeeze as much out of it as I can. The whole package is really good at the moment. I can come to tournaments and it doesn’t matter whether I win or lose, but it would be nice to win and I am competitive.”
There were a lot of reactions on social media praising both players and, also, firmly stating that longer matches bring a particular type of challenge and asking for a return of the best of 19 in the UK championship and at the World Qualifiers.
Intereastingly, David Hendon had published this a few days ago:
DON’T SHORTEN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: WHY UNIQUE PRESSURES OF SNOOKER’S LONGER FORMATS MAKE IT ULTIMATE CHALLENGE
The narratives in a long snooker match have more time to shift, often with dramatic repercussions which can define whole careers, writes David Hendon. For that reason and many others, there is value in longer encounters that truly test the players. There is only one real advantage to shortening the World Championship: it makes it easier to win.
BY DAVE HENDON
Let’s go back 30 years to May 4th, 1992. It’s a sunny bank holiday Monday afternoon in Sheffield and Jimmy White is leading Stephen Hendry 12-6 in the World Championship final.
White is outplaying Hendry. He looks around a packed Crucible theatre and starts to think of who he should thank – and who he should leave out – in his victory speech later that night.
Darkness falls in more ways than one. Six hours later, Hendry has won 18-14. White has lost the last 10 frames. To this day, he has never held snooker’s most prized trophy aloft.
The Whirlwind would surely have been world champion had the final been played over one day, as some current players now advocate. We’re told constantly people don’t want to watch a best of 35, that their attention spans can’t take it, that they have other things to do.
But the glory of long matches comes from the investment required, from players and spectators alike. We will see this at the Crucible next month, and first at the Cazoo Tour Championship, which starts in Llandudno today and where every match is best of 19 frames.
In the early days of professional snooker, the world final was played over several weeks and could be best of as many as 149 frames. There was no supporting circuit then and no television coverage. Ticket sales was the only source of revenue so matches were dragged out for as long as possible.
Pot Black established snooker on TV using a one frame, half hour format. The staple of the circuit became best of nine frame matches but the World Championship kept a longer frames format and, since 1982, has basically remained the same apart from a decision to make the semi-finals slightly longer.
Every champion of the last four decades has therefore faced the same set of challenges: mental and, given the stamina required over 17 days, physical too.
At the Crucible a player must win 71 frames over as many as 16 sessions to achieve snooker immortality as world champion. Last summer Neil Robertson, who did just that in 2010, told the Talking Balls podcast he wants the World Championship shortened.
He said: “Personally, I don’t really like the format, I think it’s pretty dated and it can be very stale. I’ve never watched a best of 35 from start to finish, ever. You’ll never get the general public watching a best of 35 from start to finish, ever. They’ll watch the final of the Masters or UK Championship, they’ll dip in and out of the World Championship but they’ll never be engaged in the whole match.
“From an entertainment point of view, the World Championship is a struggle for me to watch and I’m a top player in the game.”
Really? We like to think of modern audiences as constantly distracted but they will invest in anything compelling enough to hold their interest. Robertson knows from personal experience the addictive power of video games. He is also a comic book fan: the latest Batman film is three hours long. The Game of Thrones novels he has enthusiastically devoured are all hefty tomes that can double as doorstops.
It is undoubtedly unusual and eccentric to have a snooker match lasting up to three days, but snooker is unusual and eccentric. That’s why we like it. It’s people who’ve spent too many hours in darkened rooms trying to knock balls into holes. It’s simultaneously pointless and glorious, much like existence itself.
The human dimension, the way we latch on to the players and their personalities, is given more time to take root in a longer match. Their struggle becomes our struggle. Their joy or despair is a part of us. We’ve been there, with them, day after day, sharing their journey: every unlucky nudge, kindly fluke, scorching long pot, astute safety. We see in their twitching eyelids and sweat-covered brow something of our own anxieties. We’ve all dreamed of success. We’ve all been nervous about messing up.
The World Championship is as much an emotional rollercoaster for the audience as it is the players. The most valuable commodity anyone has is their own time. Snooker fans willingly give it to the 17-day Crucible marathon and it rewards them handsomely in return.
The narratives in a long match have more time to shift, often with dramatic repercussions which can define whole careers.
Mike Hallett was poised to land one of the game’s biggest trophies at the 1991 Masters when he led Hendry 8-2, but he missed match ball pink and was beaten 9-8.
Cliff Thorburn’s days as a professional were virtually ended when he surrendered a 9-2 lead over Nigel Bond at the Crucible in 1994, losing 10-9 in the early hours.
The late Willie Thorne missed a blue to lead Steve Davis 14-8 in the 1985 UK Championship final, lost the frame and was beaten 16-14.
Equally, being on the wrong end of a drubbing in a longer match is a test of resolve. John Parrott was battered 18-3 by Davis in the 1989 world final. He bounced back by winning the title two years later.
Hendry, having lost his world No. 1 spot to John Higgins earlier in the year, suffered a shocking 9-0 defeat to Marcus Campbell at the 1998 UK Championship. It prompted him to take his game apart and put it back together. Result? A seventh world title a few months later.
With so many new events in the Barry Hearn era, shorter formats were necessary just to fit all the matches in. Best of sevens breeze along, rarely outstaying their welcome, and the Shootout is the ultimate in quick fix snooker – just 10 minute matches.
But the Tour Championship has gone the other way, with one match a day played over two sessions. It’s often said that every match at the Masters is like a final, but that’s not really true as they are all best of 11 affairs until the actual final. In Llandudno, there is no hiding place. This is the proper stuff, played over a distance which provides a proper test.
There are various theories for White’s failure to beat Hendry in 1992: pressure, how he spent his time between sessions, Hendry’s relentless obsession with winning. But the simple fact is that at 12-6 the match was only halfway done. In the 2000 final, Matthew Stevens led Mark Williams 13-7 but there were still 15 frames to play and Williams turned it round to win 18-16. Perhaps most famously, Davis led Dennis Taylor 8-0 in 1985. He couldn’t lose, except he did, 18-17 on the last black.
Snooker now has a good mix of formats catering to different audience preferences but it’s pleasing that the modern vogue for shortening everything has not completely taken hold. Fans don’t always reach for the microwave to provide sustenance. The slow cooker in time provides greater nourishment.
Robertson, a great talent, champion and role model, has been to the semi-final stage at Sheffield only once since his title triumph 12 years ago. Even this brilliant cueist has felt the unique pressure of attaining peak performance over the longer distance, which challenges every facet of a player’s make-up.
There’s only one real advantage to shortening the World Championship: it makes it easier to win.
And where’s the fun in that?
Fans’ reactions on social media yesterday completely vindicated Dave’s opinion.