Ronnie O’Sullivan is 7-2 up on Neil Robertson after the first session of the Coral Players Championship final, needing just three more frames to take the title.
It was sizzling snooker from defending champion O’Sullivan at the Preston Guild Hall as he surged into a commanding lead. The match resumes at 7pm with first to ten frames to take the trophy and £125,000 top prize. O’Sullivan also brought his career century tally to 999, needing just one more tonight to reach the milestone of 1,000 tons.
Playing in his 50th ranking final, O’Sullivan is chasing his 35th ranking title, which would bring him within one of Stephen Hendry’s record of 36. The first of those finals came back in 1993 at the same venue when he beat Hendry in the final of the UK Championship. Victory today would give O’Sullivan a fifth title at the Guild Hall.
The 43-year-old Englishman has played in nine tournaments so far this season, reaching six finals. He is aiming to win his fourth title of the season, and the top prize would take his total for the campaign to £754,500. By beating Robertson he would move one place up the world rankings to second, with the chance to take over from Mark Selby at the top of the list if he were to win the Coral Tour Championship later this month.
Australia’s Robertson is playing in his 24th ranking final and aiming for his 16th title. Victory would give him a third ranking title in a single season for the first time, having already won the Riga Masters and Welsh Open. The 37-year-old has won two out of three previous final meetings with O’Sullivan – at the 2010 World Open and 2017 Hong Kong Masters. But he’ll need an epic fight back this time if he is to overturn the deficit.
Breaks of 67, 66, 52, 70 and 65 saw O’Sullivan reel off the first four frames. He looked set to go 5-0 up until he missed a red to a centre pocket on 50, and Robertson gained a foothold with an excellent 65 clearance. But O’Sullivan soon regained the momentum as runs of 116 and 56 made it 6-1.
The high scoring continued as Robertson’s 78 gave him frame eight, before O’Sullivan’s 105 in the last frame of the session gave him a five frame cushion and brought him to the brink of a historic millennium of centuries.