Sunday 24 September 2017

Snooker: Devastating O'Sullivan on verge of fourth final

John Skilbeck

Ronnie O'Sullivan gave Matthew Stevens a flicker of hope in their World Championship semi-final before then trampling over Welsh hopes with a devastating six-frame burst.

O'Sullivan has never lost a Crucible final and barring a spectacular turnaround he is heading to the fourth of his career. Given the way he finished against Stevens yesterday, there is now every prospect of the 36-year-old triumphing with a session to spare, having already built an 11-5 lead in the best-of-33-frame contest.

He treated a rapt audience to breaks of 61, 62, 110, 98, 90 and 113, clicking into the form which has seen him tear past three former world champions in Sheffield. Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson had no answer to O'Sullivan's brilliance in the earlier rounds and although Stevens was briefly level, having started 5-3 in arrears, trouble soon began to mount for the man from Carmarthen.

It was not that Stevens was off-guard. He knew the danger lurked, but when it arrived there was no preventing O'Sullivan picking off his prey. He is hungry this year, and whatever he says to contradict that needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Ali Carter, meanwhile, was considering retirement at the turn of the year, but now a second appearance in the World Championship final beckons for the 32-year-old. He leads Stephen Maguire 14-10 overnight after dominating a large part of their two sessions yesterday.

The final three frames of the day went Maguire's way, though, as he belatedly found some mental poise, but the Scot still faces a tall order when they play to a finish this afternoon.

As the effect of Crohn's disease, the condition Carter was diagnosed with nine years ago, began to take a drastic physical toll, he went to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association to request a year-long sabbatical.

It did not come to that, and Carter's health has improved markedly thanks to a no-wheat, no-dairy diet, albeit with a setback this week when he complained of feeling badly bloated after eating a steak.

He vowed after beating Jamie Jones in the quarter-finals that illness would not obstruct his Crucible mission, and Carter used all his guile to back Maguire into a corner he will do well to fight his way out of.

cool

In the morning session, which saw Carter move from 5-3 to 10-6 ahead, Maguire twice lost his cool, firstly with a wild attempt to escape from a snooker and then when he thumped the table to draw gasps from spectators. He later appeared to question the judgment of referee Leo Scullion when a foul was called against him.

Maguire fired a 142 break shortly before lunch, while 134 and 73 in the space of three frames nudged Carter to 14-7. A strategy hinging on safety-first tactics made Carter a frustrating opponent for Maguire, but when the Scot fired breaks of 72 and 70, before pinching the final frame of the day, he at least had a platform to build from today.

World Championships,

Live, BBC1/Eurosport 1.0, 10.0

Irish Independent

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