Five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan produced a sublime display to beat Shaun Murphy 5-1 and reach the semi-finals of the 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
It’s a fifth consecutive win over 2005 Crucible king Murphy for O’Sullivan. He also now commands a 13-3 lead over the Magician in their head-to-head record.
This week comes as a big boost to O’Sullivan’s chances of qualifying for the Coral Series later on in the season. He’s currently ranked 83rd in the one-year list and requires to move up to 32nd position to gain a place in the World Grand Prix. He will now have his eyes on the £70,000 top prize on offer this week and the Alex Higgins Trophy.
Murphy, who won the China Championship earlier in the season, will turn his attentions to the upcoming UK Championship as he aims to add to his Triple Crown silverware collection.
The Rocket came flying out of the traps this evening. A run of 76 saw him take the opening frame to move 1-0 ahead. Murphy led in the second frame, but a crucial clearance of 42 allowed O’Sullivan to steal it on the black and double his advantage.
Further breaks of 52 and 78 helped him into a 4-0 lead at the mid-session. When they returned Murphy got off the mark with a fine century run of 104. However, it proved to be nothing more than a consolation, with O’Sullivan stealing the sixth frame on the black to clinch a 5-1 victory.
O’Sullivan said: “I just went for everything and waited to see what happened really. If they went in great. If they didn’t then I would have expected Shaun to do some damage. It just was what it was.
“Sometimes if you are enjoying it then win or lose it doesn’t really matter. You have to look at the bigger picture. The more you can enjoy it the better. It is either a passion or a job and for me it is a passion.”
O’Sullivan will face Joe Perry in the last four. The Gentleman booked his semi-final spot with a 5-3 win over Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher.
World number 15 Perry had trailed 3-1, but battled back after the mid-session to turn the match on its head.
Perry said: “I’m confident in my own game. Whether it is good enough to beat Ronnie I don’t know. I’ve played Judd Trump three times this year and for me he is the best player in the game at the moment. I’ve beat him once, given him a game once and been annihilated once. They are the best players in the world. If they turn up and fire you will be watching. If not then you have a chance.”
John Higgins emerged victorious in an enthralling quarter-final clash with Mark Selby, winning 5-4 to reach the semi-finals and book a meeting with World Champion Judd Trump.
Four-time World Champion Higgins is now through to his second ranking semi-final of the season. His other came at the World Open where he also faced Trump, losing out 6-5.
19.com English Open champion Selby’s hopes of the £1 million bonus associated with winning all four Home Nations events in a single season have come to an end.
Higgins stormed to a 4-1 lead before Selby mounted a comeback charge. A century run of 109 made it 4-2. Selby then compiled a run of 62 on his way to taking the seventh frame, which included a shot which he deliberated over for six minutes and 13 seconds as the pressure mounted at the Waterfront Hall.
Further breaks of 62 and 52 saw Selby force a decider. However, Higgins composed himself and sealed victory with a sublime 110 break to close out the match.
World and defending champion Judd Trump came through in the opening match of the day with a 5-1 defeat of 2017 German Masters winner Anthony Hamilton.
The Ace in the Pack composed breaks of 106, 66, 73 and 105 on his way to a comfortable victory this afternoon.
Trump said: “I think since winning here last year I have gone on to win quite a few. It was a real turning point and a special atmosphere here last year. This is somewhere that I enjoy coming back to.”