Ronnie O’Sullivan extended his three-year unbeaten run in the Shanghai Masters after securing a 10-6 win in his semi-final with Neil Robertson.
The Rocket picked up the titles in 2017 and 2018. Last year he came out on top in a thrilling final with Barry Hawkins 11-9 to win the first running of the event since a format switch made it the most lucrative invitational tournament in the sport. He has now won 14 consecutive matches in the event.
This year it will be Shaun Murphy standing in his way as he bids to pick up the £200,000 top prize. They will do battle over the best of 21 frames and two sessions tomorrow for the title, with Murphy contesting his first ever Shanghai Masters final.
Defeat will come as a tough pill to swallow for Australia’s Robertson, who was dealt a bitter blow in the opening session when he damaged his tip miscuing a yellow. Despite that setback he did emerge from the afternoon’s play with a 5-4 advantage.
When they came out this evening five-time World Champion O’Sullivan took a tight opening frame after a further miscue from Robertson when on a break of 42 allowed the Englishman to restore parity.
Crucially Robertson then missed a difficult final black along the top cushion when attempting to clear up and steal the next frame. That ended his run on 51 and allowed O’Sullivan the simplest of pots to move 6-5 up.
A break of 87 then made it 7-5, before O’Sullivan claimed the final frame before the mid-session to go 8-5 ahead. A century run of 102 put him within a frame of victory when they returned.
Robertson stoically fought on and got his first frame of the evening to make it 9-6. However, O’Sullivan wrapped up his win in the following frame with a sumptuous break of 134.
O’Sullivan said: “I’m pleased to get through to the final. This is a special tournament and my favourite one on the circuit. It is always nice to do well in this event.
“I’m proud of any record I can get in snooker, so not losing here in three years is great. I just like to play and I like to compete. There have been a couple of times this week where I feel that haven’t performed. That can zap a bit of energy out of you. I think snooker is about whether you can win when you aren’t playing your best. I have won a lot of tournaments doing that so I know I can. When you are playing well it is an easy game and it doesn’t take anything out of you.
“Shaun has been player of the season so far. He got to the final in Daqing and there was no shame in losing to Judd Trump. What is impressive is that he has come here and beat some very good players to get into the final again. He is in good form and it will be a tough game tomorrow.”
Robertson said: “Playing with the damaged tip was really tough. It was like trying to do an 800 metre race in the Olympics with a pulled hamstring. Then your only hopes are the rest of the field falling over and allowing you to win.
“Towards the end of the first session I made a good century break. However, I didn’t need to play any screw shots that put pressure on the tip. I didn’t realise how bad it was and it was just one shot away from getting permanently damaged. In hindsight I should have put a new tip on between the sessions.”