Rocket Wins Belfast Thriller
Ronnie O’Sullivan came through a dramatic deciding frame to beat Mark Selby 6-5 in a classic semi-final at the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
The pair have become accustomed to doing battle on the sport’s grandest stages, having contested finals against each other in all three of the Triple Crown events. However, this was their first clash for almost two years. They last crossed cues in the 2016 UK Championship final where Selby won 10-7.
The wait was worthwhile, with both players producing a match of supreme standard and high drama this afternoon.
Selby claimed the first frame, but the Rocket responded immediately. Five-time World Champion O’Sullivan took to the front with back-to-back century runs of 135 and 114, before Selby reeled him in with a break of 92 to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.
They continued to trade big breaks when they returned. Contributions of 87 and 112 saw O’Sullivan move 4-2 in front. The Jester pulled one back, before the Rocket claimed the eighth frame and re-established his two-frame lead at 5-3.
The three-time Crucible king Selby then showed his big match steel, making a break of 72 to keep his hopes alive going into what proved to be a tense tenth frame. It came down to the final red, where the pair contested a safety battle until O’Sullivan went in-off. Selby pounced on the opportunity, firing home a fine long red and clearing to force a decider.
Both players had opportunities to take the final frame, with each of them breaking down by missing a black off the spot. It once again came down to the final red and things looked to be going Selby’s way, with O’Sullivan trapped in a difficult snooker. He missed it three-times, before fluking the fourth attempt and clearing with 32 to win on the final black.
O’Sullivan said: “I’ve had some stinkers against Mark over the years and he has had some stinkers against me. Sometimes you collide and both play well. Today was one of those days. You have seen me play a few good matches and some not so great. Nobody knows what they are going to get from one day to the next. That is the mystery of this game.
“Mark looked really dangerous around the balls. He still has all the nous around the table and all of the presence. He, alongside John Higgins, has the best bottle in the game.”
Despite the agonising nature of the defeat Selby was in an upbeat mood about his form heading into the upcoming UK Championship.
“I’ve been playing well all week, so I have a lot of positives to take. I just have to go back to the practice table and look forward to the UK Championship,” said Selby. “To compete with Ronnie when he played as well as that shows where my game is at.”