Ronnie O’Sullivan kept his hopes of a record seventh Dafabet Masters crown alive thanks to an edgy 6-3 defeat of Neil Robertson in London.
It was a clash between the two most successful Masters competitors of recent years. Since the tournament’s move to Alexandra Palace in 2012, either Robertson or O’Sullivan has reached the final every year. However, the Rocket progressed on this occasion to book a semi-final spot against either Mark Allen or Marco Fu.
O’Sullivan is seeking his first silverware of the 2016/17 season, having been runner-up at the European Masters, Champion of Champions and UK Championship.
It was the Thunder from Down Under who set an electric pace in front of a packed 2,000 strong audience. A run of 74 helping Robertson into an early 1-0 advantage. However, O’Sullivan responded immediately with a break of 64 to restore parity. The match then became more fragmented and both players struggled to find their fluent best. They traded frames to go into the interval level at 2-2.
When they returned it was 2012 Masters Champion Robertson who edged ahead thanks to runs of 59 and 62, only to find himself pegged back once more by the Rocket to go 3-3.
As the winning line drew closer missed opportunities became more frequent with both players under pressure. A loose safety from the Australian allowed O’Sullivan to go 4-3 up in a scrappy seventh frame. Both players then missed simple reds to the middle in the eighth, before the Rocket cashed in on a fluked red to make 54 and move one frame from victory
The five-time World Champion O’Sullivan then clinched his third frame in a row with a break of 68 to book his semi-final berth with a 6-3 win.
O’Sullivan said: “I don’t think either of us played well. It was just one of those matches. As long as I felt physically better than I have been, I was happy. I’ve been ill for so long, it’s nice to just feel normal today.
“I don’t care about luck. I’m too old to worry about that, I’m in the next round. Hopefully, at some point I can play a little bit better, get to a final or win a tournament.
“I think I’ve got two or three years of having good opportunities to win tournaments if I’m being realistic. I’ve got to accept that I’m not as clinical or sharp as I used to be, probably four or five years ago. But I’m just going to drag it out, play as much as I can,” said the six-time Masters winner. “I’m a fierce competitor and I think that’s what got me through today. I’ll always be that, although today wasn’t a great performance.”