John Higgins scored a superb 5-1 win over Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach the semi-finals of the ManBetX Welsh Open, and end the Rocket’s chances of winning back to back ranking titles.
O’Sullivan captured last week’s World Grand Prix, his fourth ranking title of the season, and won his first three matches here in Cardiff without losing a frame. But he was no match for old rival Higgins tonight as the Scot went through to the semi-finals to face Gary Wilson.
World number five Higgins is aiming to become the first player to win the Welsh Open for the fifth time, and hopes to bring his career tally of ranking titles to 30. His last victory came at the Indian Open in September.
O’Sullivan won the opener tonight with a break of 64 and at that stage had won 19 frames in a row. But Higgins hit back with runs of 113 and 57 to lead 2-1. The pivotal fourth frame looked to be heading O’Sullivan’s way when he led by 24 points with the last five colours left. But in potting the green with the rest, he was unlucky to see the cue ball flick off the brown and drop into a centre pocket. Higgins later potted a long brown and cleared for 3-1.
O’Sullivan had first chance in frame five but could only make 30 before running out of position, and Higgins responded to take it, helped by a break of 60. And a missed green from O’Sullivan early in frame six proved his last shot as Higgins wrapped it up in style with a 101.
“To beat Ronnie is a great win,” said Higgins. “He has beaten me really easily a few times this season, then the last two times we have played I have got the better of him quite easily. Ronnie didn’t play great tonight and I was a bit surprised by that.
“The fourth frame was massive. He’ll probably wonder to himself what he was even doing coming close to the middle pocket, that’s what will be pickling his head tonight, he’ll be thinking he should have just potted the green and played safe on the brown.
“It would be brilliant to win a fifth Welsh Open but I’m not even thinking about that yet. I’ve got a very tough game against Gary, the last time we played in Northern Ireland he beat me. He’s getting more used to the business end of tournaments and he has got what it takes to get to big finals.
“It’s a big aim to get to 30 ranking titles, once I got past Steve Davis to 29 that was my aim. I feel great, in the past I have lost in tournaments and been down on myself. Now I am enjoying it more, I’m not putting too much expectation on myself, I’m just giving it everything in each event and seeing where it takes me. In my eyes Ronnie will always be the best. I am more of a working man’s player, I don’t have the same flair but I give it everything.”
O’Sullivan said: “John is just different class, he’s just a brilliant player. I got what I deserved tonight. I knew if I didn’t find an improvement on what I had done so far in the tournament he would get into my weaknesses, and that’s what he did.
“I’m quite relieved it is over because I can do a nice bit of commentary now and watch John. The only good thing about tonight was that I had the best seat in the house. I would recommend anyone who is a snooker fan to come and watch John, because it doesn’t get any better than the way he plays. Hopefully he’ll win the trophy because it’s great to see great players do great things.
“If it had been 2-2 at the interval it would have been daylight robbery. It was a master class from John, he didn’t play his best but he didn’t need to. I love playing in Cardiff so I’m disappointed to be out. But I wasn’t performing well enough. I won last week and I can’t keep going to the well.”
Wallsend’s Wilson scored a 5-2 win over China’s Yu Delu to reach the second ranking semi-final of his career; the first coming at the 2015 China Open when he beat Ding Junhui in the semis before losing to Mark Selby in the final.
World number 51 Wilson made a 105 in the opening frame tonight then Yu hit back to lead 2-1. Wilson dominated the next three frames, firing breaks of 140 and 124 as he went 4-2 up. Frame seven came down to the colours and both players had chances, but Wilson knocked in excellent pots on brown, blue and pink to guarantee a pay-day of at least £20,000.
“I played a lot better tonight,” said 32-year-old Wilson, a former taxi driver. “I was confident and I took control from 2-1 down. I held myself together well in the end. I’m over the moon to be in the semis and I’ll see how far I can get.
“I was looking over at John Higgins and it looked like he played well. He and Ronnie are both class so I knew it would be a tough next match for me. I have had a good draw in this tournament so far, but I know I’ve got to play a lot better tomorrow against John. I beat him a good match in Belfast. If I can get chances I know I can score, but my safety will have to be good as well.
“I had no faith in my technique before tonight and I am still lacking in confidence in certain shots. I was in the practice room earlier today changing a few technical things, to find something I could rely on and be comfortable with.”
1pm: Barry Hawkins v Noppon Saengkham
7pm: John Higgins v Gary Wilson