Ronnie O’Sullivan remained on course to win a sixth Betway UK Championship – and an 18th Triple Crown title – as he beat Stephen Maguire 6-4 in the semi-finals.
O’Sullivan saw a 4-0 lead over Maguire reduced to just one frame at 5-4, but he secured victory in the tenth frame to reach his seventh UK final. He has won five of his previous six; his only defeat coming last year in York against Mark Selby.
The Rocket will meet Shaun Murphy or Ryan Day over 19 frames on Sunday with the winner to bank £170,000. Victory would see O’Sullivan match two significant records: Steve Davis’s six UK titles and Stephen Hendry’s 18 Triple Crown wins.
World number four O’Sullivan is also aiming to win his 31st career ranking title and third within seven weeks having captured the English Open trophy in October and the Shanghai Masters in November. He is into his fifth final of the season having finished runner-up at the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions. At the age of 42, O’Sullivan is playing arguably the most consistently impressive snooker of his career.
Maguire misses out the chance to double his tally of UK titles, having lifted the trophy in 2004. Defeat today also means he is out of the running in the race to the Masters, with Liang Wenbo hanging on to the 16th and final spot.*
O’Sullivan made a 61 clearance to win the opening frame. The second came down to the colours and Maguire thumped in a long pink but then missed a relatively simple black to a top corner. After a safety exchange the Scot went for an other long pot but left the black in the jaws, and his opponent converted for 2-0. Runs of 54 and 64 helped O’Sullivan lead 4-0 at the interval.
Maguire took the next two, including a break of 91 in frame six, and he had first chance in frame seven but missed the yellow to a baulk corner on 22. O’Sullivan’s 111 put him 5-2 ahead.
World number 20 Maguire continued to battle and compiled runs of 51 and 129 to close to 5-4. But a loose safety when he trailed 21-6 in frame ten allowed O’Sullivan to pot a red to a centre pocket which set up a match-winning break of 63.
“Stephen is a quality player and I expected some kind of resistance,” said O’Sullivan, who has not faced a top 16-ranked player so far in this event. “I just tried to keep my patience and wait for the chance to pounce. I’ve got lucky that other players have struggled against me this week. I suppose to get to the final having not played my best is not a bad thing.
“I was listening to an interview with Mark Selby and he said he’d much rather play well and lose than play badly and win. I thought ‘yeah, that’s how I feel.’ Me and Mark played last year in the final and even though I lost I still came off thinking ‘I enjoyed that, it was a good workout.’ This week I’ve really had to battle and I’ve just scrambled through.”
Maguire said: “I just didn’t settle until 4-0 down. I put up a bit of a fight but I’d lost it in the first four frames. I was always positive because I felt as if I was cueing okay and potting the balls.
“It would have been nice to get to 5-5 and see what happened because he was obviously starting to rock a little bit. I just didn’t get a chance in that 10th frame and that’s disappointing.
“I hate losing and I lost that before the interval which I’m gutted about. At the end there I fancied the job. I wasn’t even looking at the scoreboard, I just fancied it if I got in the balls. It was just a pity that it came too late.”
*The line up for the Masters is now confirmed, below are the 16 players. These are not necessarily in seeding order as the seeding will be confirmed at the end of the Betway UK Championship. The draw for the Masters will be done on Sunday. Tickets for the event at Alexandra Palace (January 14-21) are available now, for details click here