Ronnie had a relaxing time with his family over Christmas, and had not been talking to the press ahead of today’s match so I didn’t know what to expect.
It wasn’t too bad …
It was actually quite an eventful match, at least before the MSI. Ronnie could have easily been 3-1 down instead of being 3-1 up. All sorts happened on this table … for both of them: kicks, flukes, unwanted kisses… After the MSI, Ronnie looked very focussed and played much better. He was watched by Damien Hirst sat in the arena.
After the match, he was interviewed by Rob Walker on the floor. Clearly he doesn’t want to put pressure on himself, but he enjoyed the match and he enjoys competing. That was very positive and nice to hear.
Ronnie O’Sullivan revealed his hunger for a record eighth Masters title after sweeping aside Luca Brecel 6-1 to reach the last eight at Alexandra Palace.
The 47-year-old summoned back-to-back centuries as he pounced on his opponent’s evident nerves to stay on course for a title he may have made his own, but has not won since 2017.
Despite frequent hints at retirement and having fallen out of love with the game, O’Sullivan said he felt refreshed and focused and fired a warning to the rivals who want to take his crown.
O’Sullivan told the BBC: “I feel like I’ve got life in perspective – I spent enough years getting disappointed by the game, and I thought let’s try not to get disappointed, and it’s freed me up a bit.
“I’m still competitive. If I take up anything I want to be better, it’s just natural and I’ll never lose that, so the players can expect me to keep coming for more.”
The ruthless nature of O’Sullivan’s triumph over the Belgian former UK finalist underscored the extent to which he is eager to extend his dominance of this prestigious event.
After O’Sullivan opened with a break of 97, Brecel missed golden opportunities to win each of the next two, running out of position on the brown in the second then going in-off the blue in the next having potted an astounding green off the side cushion with the rest.
O’Sullivan swept up to go 3-0 in front and although Brecel responded with a century before the mid-session interval, a lack of concentration cost him in the fifth frame when a poor break-off shot let in O’Sullivan for a clearance to black of 134.
A missed red to the middle in the next let in O’Sullivan for a 104 before he completed a win which will have sent a clear message to his title rivals.
“You sense someone is a bit nervous and you just pounce on it,” added O’Sullivan. “Whoever you are in any sport, when you play the top players they will sniff it out.
“You don’t have to say you’re under pressure, I smell it, and if I smell it I’m going to be on you like a rash.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan punished a collection of big mistakes from Luca Brecel to race into the 2023 Masters quarter-finals with a 6-1 win at Alexandra Palace.
The Rocket, chasing a record-extending eighth title at the Triple Crown event, was gifted the second and third frames after Brecel unravelled in the decisive moments. From that point on, the result rarely looked in doubt as O’Sullivan cruised into a meeting with either Mark Williams or David Gilbert.
O’Sullivan talked up Brecel as the “most talented player on the circuit” prior to the clash, tipping the Belgian to win multiple world titles, but it was the world No. 1 who looked a cut above as he delivered a statement display on the green baize.
The 47-year-old earned an immediate opening in the first frame after a smart snooker left Brecel missing twice, then connecting much too firmly with the red he was trying to skim. O’Sullivan took full advantage, showing off his fabled cue ball control as he made a 97 contribution for a 1-0 lead.
One criticism of O’Sullivan is that he often takes time to warm into matches, but there was no doubting he was tuned in from the off against Brecel when he fired home a marvellous long red to kick off the second. But after making 42, luck went against him when he charged into the pack and was left without an option.
Brecel, also battling his troublesome tie from poking out during his cue action, soon built a winning opportunity when he brilliantly cannoned the brown into play off a cushion. But two shots later, he inexplicably ran out of position after potting the brown, allowing O’Sullivan to return to the table and, after a safety battle on the blue, clean up for a 2-0 lead.
O’Sullivan missed the simplest of reds early in the third frame – with replays later showing he suffered a horrendous kick – as Brecel was handed a reprieve. The frame came down to the colours with O’Sullivan getting the opening with a brilliant safety on the yellow, only for him to contrive to pot the cue ball soon after.
That left Brecel with a golden chance to halve the deficit. It was one he had to take; it was one he did not take. Although Brecel produced an outrageous shot on the green with the rest, screwing back up the table for the brown, he threw it away, again, this time going in-off from the blue. O’Sullivan gobbled up the remaining three balls and, somehow, led 3-0 when he could – and probably should – have been behind.
Brecel ensured there would be no more colours drama in the fourth frame as he produced a steadying 100 without reply for the first century of the match to head into the interval with something to work with.
But if he was hoping for O’Sullivan’s level to drop upon the resumption, he was in for a nasty surprise. The 27-year-old was afforded just one shot, the break-off, in the fifth frame as O’Sullivan danced around the table en route to a 134 total clearance to move two from victory.
Brecel was back on the scoreboard in the next, albeit only after a monster fluke, before he soon broke down again. O’Sullivan returned with another century, this time a 104, as the match headed for a brisk conclusion.
And the rout was completed soon after as O’Sullivan knocked in a smart 53 to leave Brecel requiring snookers, with the deflated Belgian conceding soon after as his miserable Masters record continued. Brecel has won just once in four matches at the event and has much work to do if he is to fulfil O’Sullivan’s prophecy as a future world champion.
Here are some videos shared by Eurosport on their YouTube channel:
The absolutely chaotic third frame:
Ronnie’s 134 in frame 5:
Ronnie’s 104 in the 6th frame:
Ronnie’s interview in the ES studio:
Two-Ton Rocket Thumps Brecel
Aiming to win the Cazoo Masters for the first time in six years, Ronnie O’Sullivan started in fine style at Alexandra Palace with a 6-1 thrashing of Luca Brecel.
Crowd favourite O’Sullivan lifted the trophy in 1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017 and is looking to become the first player to win a Triple Crown event on eight occasions. The reigning World Champion meets Mark Williams or David Gilbert in the quarter-finals in London on Thursday at 1pm, and if he wins that match O’Sullivan will take his career earnings from this tournament past the £2 million mark.
“I gave everything 100 per cent today, played my game and hoped to get a result,” said 47-year-old O’Sullivan, who has already won the Hong Kong Masters and Cazoo Champion of Champions this season. “It is never guaranteed but it went my way today. I have to manage my emotions and the adrenaline that goes through my body. I have to go out there and do a job so I can’t get too excited. The crowd come and pay their money and they want to see a good match so I feel a responsibility sometimes. But I can’t play with that kind of mindset, I just have to try my best.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have 2,000 people expecting you to play well. At my age I just try to enjoy every moment and I think I have a really good perspective on life and the game. I don’t want to be defined by snooker or disappointed if I don’t do well. I have enjoyed the last ten or 12 years of snooker more than I did before.”
A break of 97 gave O’Sullivan the opening frame, then Brecel could have levelled in the second but ran out of position in potting the brown, then missed a difficult long blue, leading 57-42. O’Sullivan got the better of a safety exchange and cleared for 2-0. The third also came down to the colours, and Brecel converted a fantastic pot on the green with the rest, added the brown but then went in-off when potting the blue, trying to gain position on the pink. Again his opponent punished him for 3-0.
The standard moved up a notch as Brecel pulled one back with a break of 100, before O’Sullivan fired runs of 134 and 104 to open a 5-1 advantage. And a run of 53 in frame seven helped him book a 24th Masters quarter-final.
Belgium’s Brecel said: “I just didn’t play well. I enjoyed the walk-in, the crowd was really good, even if they just support Ronnie, which is normal! I enjoyed the experience, I wish I had played a bit better. When you play Ronnie, you have to be on top form to have a chance to win. I need to practise more and be sharper for the next tournament. I had my chances today and didn’t take them. Ronnie didn’t make a lot of mistakes – that’s why he’s the GOAT.”
more to come if/when available.