Ronnie O’Sullivan made a superb break in the deciding frame to beat Mark Williams 6-5 on his return to the limelight at the Dafabet Masters.
O’Sullivan was playing his first televised match since last year’s World Championship and his clash with fellow snooker legend Williams certainly lived up to its billing and produced a dramatic finish, to the delight of a capacity crowd of nearly 2,000 at Alexandra Palace.
The Rocket’s superbly-crafted run of 62 in the last frame set up a quarter-final meeting with Mark Selby or Ricky Walden on Thursday at 1pm. Tickets for that match are STILL AVAILABLE but are expected to sell out soon – click here for details of how to book.
Chigwell’s 40-year-old O’Sullivan took a break from competitive snooker for several months at the start of this season, returning to action at last month’s German Masters qualifiers. He sharpened his game by competing at last week’s Championship League, winning eight consecutive matches. He produced spells of brilliant snooker at times today, though Williams made life tough for him, particularly in the middle of the match when the Welshman won four frames in a row.
It was a full house at Alexandra Palace
O’Sullivan, who has won the Masters five times and reached a record ten finals, is suffering from a slipped disc in his lower back which he believes has created imbalance in his cue action.
He won the first frame in three scoring visits then was fortunate to add the second as he fluked the final green when escaping from a snooker.
Williams made a break of 64 early in the third then O’Sullivan had a chance to clear but mis-cued on 35, jumping the white over the black, which cost him the frame. Williams clinched the next with a fine pot on the last red to a baulk corner to make it 2-2 at the interval.
O’Sullivan looked favourite to win frame five until he missed the penultimate red to a top corner on 47, allowing his opponent to clear and take the lead. And when Williams got the better of a scrappy sixth frame he clearly had the momentum at 4-2 up.
A quick-fire break of 104 ignited the O’Sullivan fightback and he added the next two frames with runs of 60 and 117. World number six O’Sullivan had a clear opportunity to seal victory in frame ten from 50-0 down, but his attempted clearance ended on 50 when he missed a thin cut on the last red to a top corner. Williams took advantage to set up the decider.
Jimmy White and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood were among the crowd
Two-time Masters winner Williams had first chance and made 28 before running out of position. After a safety exchange, he attempted a risky long plant, but the red failed to find its target. And O’Sullivan stepped in with his match-winning 62, highlighted by a clever shot on the green to nudge the last red off a side cushion.
“We both struggled at times and missed a lot,” said O’Sullivan. “I didn’t feel nervous and it was nice to make a break in the last frame. I played a few exhibitions over the summer and I was playing well, but then I hurt my back and now I can’t get on the shot right. Maybe I’m just going through a period of playing poorly but that seems to have coincided with the back problem.
“I’m not in pain but I don’t feel balanced on the shot, there are too many moving parts. I’m not able to rip into the ball the way I like to, I’m tentative and I’m dollying the ball rather than punching through it. If I keep playing like that then there’s no point. I got away with it today but I can’t keep playing like that and expect to win. I got out of jail today and I just have to do my best with what I’ve got.”
Williams said: “It was a good game – I tried to hang in there but Ronnie was the better player. I was unlucky a few times but overall the best man won. I hardly got a shot from 4-2 to 5-4, and he finished it well in the last frame. If the plant had got in then I would have won, I knew I was sending the reds everywhere. It was a chance I had to take. I hit it at the right angle and I thought it was in.
“No one else can pull a crowd like Ronnie can.”