Ronnie O’Sullivan became the first player into the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Players Championship as he made three centuries in a 6-3 win over Ding Junhui.
It was a slow start for O’Sullivan in Llandudno tonight as he lost the first two frames and could have gone 3-0 down. But the Rocket soon gathered pace and eventually ran out a comfortable winner to set up a meeting with Judd Trump or Neil Robertson on Friday evening (tickets still available – click here for details).
World number two O’Sullivan is into his fifth ranking event semi-final of the season – and on each of the four previous occasions he has reached that stage, he has gone on to win the tournament. Victory this week would see the 42-year-old equal the record for the most ranking titles in a single season, held by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui and Mark Selby.
The key moments of tonight’s match came in the third frame when China’s Ding, leading 2-0, missed a pink to a centre pocket on a break of 40 and later played a poor safety on the last red, which allowed his opponent to clear and snatch the frame. O’Sullivan then made a superb 134 to level at 2-2, and he won the next as well to take the lead.
Ding hit back with a run of 119 to level at 3-3, but O’Sullivan moved up a gear and reeled off the last three frames with runs of 55, 100 and 121. The last of those breaks was his 67th century of the season and 941st of his career.
“I’m pleased with how I changed the way I was playing after going 2-0 down,” said Chigwell’s O’Sullivan. “I decided to play aggressively, as if I was playing against a load of numpties in an exhibition, going for my shots and not caring if I missed. When I play my best, that’s how I’m thinking, playing the first shot that I see. That’s what helped me tonight. I wanted Ding to play well too because that spurs me on and makes it a great match.
“I’ll treat my next match like an exhibition as well, I’ll go out there and smash a few balls around and see what happens. If I lose I’ll still have fun. The key for me is to find ways to enjoy it, motivate myself and find that spark.”