Ronnie O’Sullivan is just two wins away from capturing a record-equalling sixth Betway UK Championship title as he beat Martin Gould 6-3 to reach the semi-finals.
The Rocket lifted the trophy in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2007 and 2014 and victory on Sunday night would see him match Steve Davis’s record of six crowns. O’Sullivan is chasing the 31st ranking title of his career and third within two months having won the English Open and Shanghai Masters. First, he will have to win a semi-final clash on Saturday afternoon (1pm start) against Stephen Maguire, who beat Joe Perry 6-3.
World number four O’Sullivan was off to a tremendous start today as breaks of 107 and 106 put him 2-0 up. He got the better of a fragmented third frame then took the fourth by clearing from the last red. And a 55 clearance in the next put him on the brink of victory at 5-0.
Londoner Gould made a spirited fight back by taking the next three frames with runs of 101, 61 and 70. But O’Sullivan’s 94 in frame nine put him into the last four. The result ends Gould’s hopes of a place in the Masters as he remains 18th in the race to Alexandra Palace.
O’Sullivan said: “I just battled and tried to be professional and leave every ounce I’ve got in me on the table. I’ve given up analysing it any more, I just go out there and just try to do my best. Today was probably a bit better than yesterday. I’m kind of detached and I won’t allow myself to get sucked in, I’m here on a bit of a vacation and I’ve picked up a bit of Christmas shopping money and had a bit of fun.
“Stephen Maguire is a great player, he’s been around for a long time and he’s hitting the ball well so hopefully it’ll be a good match for everyone. I really like him as a person, he’s a top guy – if he battered me I’d still be his mate.”
Maguire’s match followed an identical pattern as he raced into a 5-0 lead before fending off a late fight back. Glasgow’s 36-year-old Maguire is through to his first ranking semi-final since he lost to Ryan Day in the final of the Riga Masters in June.
World number 20 Maguire won this title in 2004 and also reached the final in 2007 and the semis in 2008, 2009 and 2014.
Perry had chances in each of the first three frames but couldn’t take them and Maguire won all three on the colours. The Scot then made a 76 to go 4-0 up and added the fifth with a superb 61 clearance. Perry took the next three with top runs of 57 and 61 before Maguire completed the scoreline with a break of 75.
“I’ve never lost a match from 5-0 up so when it came back up to 5-3 I thought that was a frame that I seriously wanted to win, because if it goes to 5-4 then anything can happen,” said five-time ranking event winner Maguire. “So I was willing to play a bit more safety in the last frame and wait for my chance.”
In 2004 at this event, O’Sullivan said that Maguire could “rule the game for the next ten years.” Recalling that tournament today, Maguire said: “That was a great win, I was up and coming then and I was fearless and everything went in. I’ve got battle scars now but I don’t think I’ve gone any more defensive, I still go for more or less everything I see.
“I hope it’s a great match tomorrow, I’m there to try my hardest and if I lose I’ll be devastated. Ronnie brings the crowd, he’s an entertainer and he’s one of the players that I’d pay money to watch. I actually think he’s playing better now than he’s ever done.”
Perry said: “It was a match of missed opportunities for me and a few early Christmas presents for Mr Maguire. I just keep plugging on, my game is definitely coming back but I missed too many easy balls today.”