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O’Sullivan Into Final As Ding Misses 147

Sealed with a kiss: O’Sullivan was in affectionate mood at the end of the match

Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the final of the Dafabet Masters for the 13th time, and remained on course for an eighth title, as he beat Ding Junhui 6-3.

It was an incident-packed match at Alexandra Palace as Ding missed the green when just five pots away from a 147 in the seventh frame. If he had completed the break it would have been a historic 147th official maximum (read more on that story here). In the end it was double disappointment for China’s Ding as he fell at the semi-final stage, though there was a touching moment at the end of the contest as O’Sullivan embraced and kissed his opponent and gave him words of encouragement as they left the arena.

Ding hangs his head after passing up his 147 chance

O’Sullivan set a new record of seven Masters titles when he beat Joe Perry in the 2017 final, and he now has the chance to go further ahead of Stephen Hendry’s previous record of six. World number three O’Sullivan will meet Judd Trump or Neil Robertson in the final on Sunday, with first to ten frames to lift the Paul Hunter  Trophy and pocket a cheque for £200,000.

Victory would give O’Sullivan his 20th Triple Crown title, having won his 19th at last month’s UK Championship, surpassing another of Hendry’s records.  He is also aiming to win a fourth tournament of the season, from the six he has contested. It would take a brave man to bet against the Rocket lifting the silverware again, with a wave of support from the London crowd behind him.

In a one-sided start to today’s match, 43-year-old O’Sullivan took the first four frames with top breaks of 58, 75, 52 and 56. The tide turned after the interval as Ding, playing in the semi-finals for the first time since he won the title in 2011, took a scrappy fifth frame then made a break of 107 in the sixth. His failed maximum attempt came in the seventh, though his 122 reduced the deficit to 4-3.

In the eighth, O’Sullivan built a 56-0 lead, then Ding had three chances to counter but couldn’t capitalise, and O’Sullivan potted the third last red to seal it. And the Englishman’s run of 93 in frame nine secured his tenth Masters final since 2004.

“If it had gone 4-4 he probably would have beaten me, so I was a bit fortunate,” said O’Sullivan. “The number of titles and finals don’t really mean much to me. They’re just numbers at the end of the day. Snooker is just something I do. It does get a little bit harder as you get older. Even when it’s supposed to feel easy it feels harder these days.

“I was very nervous today. In the first few frames I was shaking, the adrenaline was pumping, and I wasn’t handling it that well. I managed to keep potting a few balls, but I didn’t feel as serene as usual. That’s how it is sometimes, you have to control it and do what you can to keep it under control.

“I was hoping Ding would get the 147. It would have been fantastic for the crowd, and for Ding. He gave it a good go. It was a great moment, a great atmosphere.

“I won’t divulge what I said to him at the end. Everyone knows how close I am to him and how I feel for Ding. I don’t kiss many people, but I like Ding, he’s a special guy and a special human.”

Ding revealed: “He said he loved me. He said I was great to watch. He said it was good to see me playing better. I told him I’m confident at the moment, and I know I’m getting better. I believe in myself that in the next ten years I can be a very strong player.

“It’s difficult to play Ronnie but it’s the only way I can improve myself. Today my break-building was very good, but he beat me on the safety side. On another day, if he hadn’t played that well I would have had a good chance to win it.”

As for the 147 attempt, Ding revealed: “It wasn’t easy to play the green. I was lucky to still have a chance, but earlier the last red was so bad. I really wanted to make a 147 at the Masters.”

Tickets for the 2020 Dafabet Masters go on sale on Sunday at 10am – for details click here