Ronnie O’Sullivan closed in on a record-equalling fourth BetVictor Welsh Open title by beating Joe Perry 6-3 in the semi-finals.
O’Sullivan will now meet Neil Robertson, a player he compared to “RoboCop” in Sunday’s final at the Motorpoint Arena. First to nine frames will take the title and £60,000 top prize. O’Sullivan already has three Welsh crowns to his name and victory would see him match the record of four held by John Higgins. The top prize would also make O’Sullivan eligible to enter next month’s World Grand Prix in Llandudno.
After taking a break from competitive snooker for the first few months of the season, O’Sullivan has been nearly flawless in 2016, winning his last 18 matches. He captured the Masters crown in January and now stands on the brink of his 28th ranking title, which would match the tallies of Higgins and Steve Davis.
Perry had the consolation of becoming the first player this week to win more than one frame against the Rocket, indeed he took three. But O’Sullivan always looked likely to prevail and has now won 27 of the 33 frames he has contested in six matches in Cardiff, making nine centuries.
Chatteris cueman Perry had chances in the opening frame tonight but when he missed the penultimate red his opponent stepped in with a 41 clearance to snatch it. The players then had to take an unscheduled interval due to a technical problem backstage which prevented television broadcast of the early stages.
Once the cameras were rolling, Perry warmed up with an excellent 139 total clearance to level at 1-1. O’Sullivan regained the lead with a 124 then Perry squared the tie with a run of 92. But the Cambridgeshire player could do little against a barrage of high scoring after the interval as O’Sullivan fired in 101, 94 and 88 to go 5-2 ahead.
He might have wrapped up the match in the next but missed a tough third-last red along a side cushion at 29-56 and Perry capitalised to pull one back. And he had a chance in the next but ran out of position on 24 and had to play safe. That proved his last shot as O’Sullivan cracked in a long red and cleared with 78.
“The matches are getting harder but I felt I scored well tonight,” said world number five O’Sullivan, who lost to Robertson at the 2010 World Open in their only previous final. “I was nervous because I’m playing well and I want to stay in the tournament. At the Masters I wasn’t nervous at all because I expected to lose. This week I’ve played six unbelievable matches and I’m waiting for the bubble to burst.
“In the past three or four years I have been expressing myself and produced the same type of snooker I played when I was 14 or 15. Now it’s about my legacy and leaving a mark on the game. Not so much in terms of titles, but in the way that I play. I like to think I’ve played snooker that no one else has.
“Neil is like RoboCop. I watched him throughout the UK Championship and he never showed any emotion. He’s like Steve Davis or Stephen Hendry in that respect. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
BetVictor make O’Sullivan the 4/9 odds on favourite for the trophy, with Robertson rated 15/8.