Ronnie O’Sullivan described his 6-4 win over Marco Fu as his “best ever” as he recovered from a damaged cue tip to reach the final of the Dafabet Masters.
Crowd favourite O’Sullivan is into his 12th Masters final and is aiming for his seventh title, which would put him ahead of the record of six he shares with Stephen Hendry. The Rocket will face Barry Hawkins or Joe Perry over 19 frames on Sunday with the winner to bank £200,000. O’Sullivan is also trying to defend the title having thrashed Hawkins 10-1 in last year’s final.
The 41-year-old from Chigwell is into his fourth final of the season – though he has lost oll three so far and is hoping to land his first silverware since the Welsh Open 11 months ago.
Hong Kong’s Fu who won last month’s Scottish Open, took the opening frame today with a break of 89, and had chances in the second but O’Sullivan snatched it by clearing from the penultimate red.
Fu regained the lead with a run of 110 then the mid-session interval was called early because O’Sullivan’s cue tip was damaged. Referee Paul Collier put a new tip on backstage, and the contest resumed.
Many players might have struggled to get used to a new tip quickly, but having had just a few shots on a practice table, O’Sullivan was immediately into a scoring groove as a break of 95 made it 2-2.
The big breaks continued to flow as Fu made a 141 – the new front-runner for the £10,000 high break prize – then O’Sullivan responded with 122 for 3-3. World number 13 O’Sullivan had first chance in frame seven but missed the black off its spot on 47 and his opponent cleared superbly with 83.
O’Sullivan started frame eight with a run of 55, then Fu had a chance to clear but made just 6 before missing a red to a top corner with the rest. O’Sullivan capitalised with 63 for 4-4. And that proved the turning point as he swept through the last two frames with breaks of 82 and 69.
“It’s probably my best win ever considering everything that went on and the way I played, given the stature of the tournament, the atmosphere,” said O’Sullivan, who is hoping to win his 17th Triple Crown title tomorrow. “There was a lot of pressure out there and to be able to hold myself together and win was so good. It’s one of the best wins of my life.
“It can take you a while, five or six days, to get used to a new tip. But I knew I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t win with the old one. It was totally gone. It was unplayable, I had to take it off. It wasn’t a gamble, I had to do it.
“Marco’s had a great run since the UK. He’s had two fantastic wins here. He was so close to winning that match, he didn’t lose out there today. I think he’s going to win more tournaments because he’s such a good player. He looks so much more aggressive and confident.
“I like my chances when I’m out there even when I’m not playing great. A lot of it is about stamping your authority on the game and letting your opponent know that he’s going to have to play really well to beat you. I’ve worked on my mental skills a lot and I think I’m much more of a competitor these days.
“I don’t care about the seventh title. I’ve gone past that. I’m just enjoying myself. I’ve had a great Saturday afternoon out. Most people are paying to watch that, I’m getting in for free.
“I hope it’ll be a fantastic occasion tomorrow. It’s been a fantastic week. Everyone that’s been here, all the top 16 players have put on a great tournament. I hope tomorrow can be another good day.”
Fu said: “He played really well. I only played one bad shot in the whole match. Every credit to the greatest player in the game today. You just have to admire it and wish him all the best in the final. Hopefully he can break the record. It was a great match to be involved in.
“I think Paul Collier put a great tip on, unfortunately. That’s the way it goes! Sometimes it just clicks. Every tip is a little bit different. He got used to it straight away, so fair play to him.”