Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan battled back from the brink at 5-2 down, to beat old adversary John Higgins 6-5 and clinch his place in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters.
Victory means O’Sullivan extends his unbeaten run in the event, which he won the three previous runnings of between 2017 and 2019. The Rocket has won his last 17 matches in Shanghai and was last beaten in the city by Michael Holt back in 2016.
This afternoon’s showdown was the latest instalment of one of snooker’s standout rivalries. With 70 ranking titles between them, O’Sullivan and Higgins have become accustomed to competing against one another on the sport’s grandest stage. Today’s result means 39-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan now leads the head-to-head standings 38-33.
Defeat will come as a bitter blow for 31-time ranking event winner Higgins, who has suffered a number of agonising losses in recent times. The Glaswegian hasn’t managed to pick up silverware in a knock out event since the 2021 Players Championship, having been runner-up in five events between now and then.
It was Higgins who made all of the running to gain a stranglehold on today’s encounter, with his opponent struggling to find his form. Higgins crafted breaks of 103, 115, 71 and 74 on his way to moving one from the win at 5-2.
At that point it appeared O’Sullivan had a mountain to climb, but Higgins began to falter with the finishing line in sight. He spurned chances to close out the tie in the eighth and ninth frames, with the battling O’Sullivan capitalising to close the gap to 5-4.
Englishman O’Sullivan found his best form at the crucial moment and made Higgins pay. A century break of exactly 100 forced the decider, where he deposited a sublime long red and conjured a total clearance of 130 to emerge a 6-5 victor. The result sets up a semi-final showdown with Mark Selby tomorrow.
O’Sullivan said: “He should have put me away really. He had enough chances. He was 5-2 up and in control of the game, uncharacteristically for John he didn’t finish it off. He looked a little bit disappointed with himself. I didn’t expect to do anything because I was really awful. I’ve been awful for about 18 months now and that is a long time to not find any form.
“When you’ve got a nice crowd and a nice venue it forces you to dig in, you don’t really want to lose. At this tournament you give it 100% all of the way. I have a good record here and it would be nice to get to the final.
“I don’t play to entertain, I just play the way I play. Judd is similar to me and Jimmy White was the same, we play an attacking game. Luca Brecel is amazing and I love watching him. He is my favourite player to watch. That is the way he plays the game. If you ask Judd and Luca if they play to entertain, they would just say they play their game. I think the crowd enjoy more attacking snooker though.”
Selby will be full of confidence heading into the last four, after he earned his place courtesy of a 6-1 demolition of Judd Trump.
The win is Selby’s first over Trump since 2015, having lost their previous five encounters. Today’s result is a dramatic reversal of fortunes against Trump for the four-time Crucible king.
It was Trump who took the opening frame this afternoon with a break of 70, but from there it was Selby who took full control of the tie. Breaks of 63, 75, 87, 80 and 83 helped him to six on the bounce and a place in the last four.
“As it turned out, Judd didn’t perform anywhere near as well as he can. When people like Judd play like that you have to try and capitalise. It doesn’t come round very often. Normally he is very good and unplayable or he plays to a good level,” said four-time World Champion Selby.
“China is an important part of our calendar and to not have it for three or four years has been tough. To come back with no restrictions is great and I speak on behalf of all of the players that we are happy to come back here.”
Australia’s Neil Robertson confirmed his place in the last four with a comprehensive 6-1 demolition of China’s Fan Zhengyi.
Robertson looked in deep trouble in his opening match against Ding Junhui, trailing 5-3, but he rallied to take the final three frames and emerge a 6-5 victor. Things were more straightforward for the 23-time ranking event winner this evening.
Breaks of 77, 62 and 107 helped 23-time ranking event winner Robertson to victory in just over two hours. He’s just one match from sealing a maiden appearance in the Shanghai Masters final. Standing in his way is World Champion Luca Brecel.
Brecel overcame Welsh Open champion Robert Milkins to book his semi-final slot. The Belgian had trailed 2-0 and 3-2 in this evening’s clash, but strung together four frames on the bounce to ensure he progressed to Saturday’s second semi-final.
The post O’Sullivan Rallies To Extend Streak appeared first on World Snooker.