Ronnie O’Sullivan twice recovered a two-frame deficit as he finished the first session of the Cazoo World Grand Prix final level at 4-4 against Neil Robertson.
Robertson had leads of 2-0 and 4-2 but each time was hauled back by his opponent, and the session finished with a dramatic twist as O’Sullivan stole the last frame despite having needed two snookers on the last red. First to ten frames in the concluding session on Sunday night takes the trophy and £100,000 top prize.
O’Sullivan is playing in his 59th ranking event final, 28 years after his first at the 1993 UK Championship. He has won 37 of those, one ahead of Stephen Hendry’s previous record of 36. However the Rocket has lost his last five finals and has not lifted silverware since the 2020 Betfred World Championship, 16 months ago.
The 46-year-old from Chigwell is aiming to win this tournament for the second time having beaten Ding Junhui in the 2018 final. He will stay at number three in the world rankings whatever the result today.
Australia’s 39-year-old Robertson is hoping to become the first player to win two titles this season, having landed the BetVictor English Open last month. This is the 34th ranking final of his career and he is aiming for his 22nd title, which would draw him level with Judd Trump in joint-sixth on the all-time list. Left-hander Robertson, who won this event in 2020, will remain fourth in the world rankings, win or lose.
O’Sullivan has won 17 of their 26 previous meetings and this is their fourth clash in the final of an event in this series. In 2019, O’Sullivan beat Robertson in the final of both the Players Championship and the Tour Championship, then last season the Aussie took revenge with a 10-4 success (winning the last six frames) at the Tour Championship.
Breaks of 72 and 62 gave Robertson the first two frames today and he had chances in the third, but crucially missed a mid-range red to a baulk corner when leading 50-39, allowing O’Sullivan to clear. Frame four came down to the colours and Robertson got the better of a safety battle, but then overcut a tricky pot on the green to a centre pocket, and again his opponent punished him.
After the interval, Robertson dominated a scrappy fifth frame, then took the next with runs of 51 and 36 to lead 4-2. He had a scoring chance in frame seven but missed a short-range red along the baulk cushion on 12, and O’Sullivan’s break of 90 reduced his deficit.
Trailing 25-19 in the last of the session, Robertson converted a clever plant which set him up for a run of 47, leaving him 41 points ahead with one red remaining. But O’Sullivan showed brilliant touch and judgement by laying a series of difficult snookers. When Robertson missed the red for a second time, O’Sullivan cleared the table to square the match and set up a fascinating final session.
They resume at 7pm.