Ronnie O’Sullivan moved a step closer to a 30th career ranking title by beating John Higgins 6-2 in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters.
It’s O’Sullivan’s third win over Higgins within a month as the Rocket beat his fellow snooker legend 4-3 at the English Open and 6-0 at the Champion of Champions. O’Sullivan and Higgins are tied on 29 ranking titles but now the Englishman has the chance to get to 30 first and move a step closer to Stephen Hendry’s record of 36.
World number seven O’Sullivan will face Judd Trump in what promises to be a superb final at the Shanghai Grand Stage on Saturday, with first to ten frames to take the trophy and £150,000 top prize. Chigwell’s 41-year-old O’Sullivan will be aiming for his second ranking title of the season having won the English Open in Barnsley four weeks ago. He’ll also be looking to make amends for defeat to Shaun Murphy in the Champion of Champions final last week.
Wishaw’s Higgins won a scrappy opening frame today then O’Sullivan hit back with breaks of 79 and 67 to take the next two, and he cleared the colours in frame four to lead 3-1 at the interval. Frame five also looked to be going O’Sullivan’s way until he knocked a red in when splitting the pack on 24, and Higgins gained a foothold in the match with a 79 clearance.
O’Sullivan won the sixth with runs of 33 and 40. The next came down to a safety battle on the black and O’Sullivan knocked in a double to a corner pocket to go 5-2 ahead. The 2009 Shanghai Masters champion finished in style with a break of 123 to reach his 44th ranking final.
“I’m so happy to be in the final,” said O’Sullivan. “It was a tough match because John is one of the all-time greats. Even when I was 4-2 and 5-2 up I knew the game could change very quickly so it was important to stay professional until the end.
“I would love to go on and win it. My game can improve but there’s no point looking too far ahead because that can play tricks with your mind. A 19 frame match is a long one and sometimes you have to change the pattern of the game. The nicest way to win is to go out there and play your game and be too strong for your opponent, but that doesn’t always happen, so you have to use your experience, your skill and whatever you have.”
Higgins said: “The best two players this week are in the final, Ronnie and Judd. I tried hard but I found the conditions difficult. There has been a lot of rain here and it was difficult to move the white around. Ronnie potted some great balls and made some good clearances. If I had won the seventh frame on the black I might have been back in the match, but overall I didn’t play well enough.”