Ronnie O’Sullivan moved within two wins of a record seventh Betway UK Championship title and 19th Triple Crown victory by beating Martin O’Donnell 6-1 in the quarter-finals.
The Rocket will now meet Tom Ford (Saturday at 1pm) who reached his first Triple Crown semi-final by beating Joe Perry 6-2.
In winning the title last year in York, O’Sullivan equalled Steve Davis’ record of six UK victories and Stephen Hendry’s mark of 18 Triple Crowns, so he is within touching distance of pushing the boundaries of his remarkable career a step further.
O’Sullivan made a fast start today with a break of 102 in the opening frame before O’Donnell, who has never reached a ranking semi-final, fought back by winning the second on the colours. World number three O’Sullivan regained the lead with a run of 79 then got the better of a 35-minute fourth frame to lead 3-1 at the interval.
World number 59 O’Donnell had chances in frame five but couldn’t take them and his opponent cleared from the last red for 4-1. And O’Sullivan cruised through the last two frames with 81 and 106, the latter break taking his career century tally to 984.
“It was nip and tuck at the start, I felt fortunate to be 3-1 up at the interval,” admitted Chigwell’s O’Sullivan, who first won this title 25 years ago. “I just tried to be patient. It was one of my better matches in the tournament in terms of my all round performance. Martin kept it tight at the start and I sensed he believed he could win. I had to draw on all of my experience.
“I’m playing for the fans because they have supported me so well over the years. I love to win and pick trophies up but that shouldn’t come at the expense of playing for the crowd.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s semi-final, O’Sullivan added: “Tom Ford is a fantastic player, attacking and fearless with nothing to lose.”
Leicester’s Ford scored an impressive 6-2 win over Joe Perry to reach his third ranking semi-final. He has made just one final before – at the 2016 Paul Hunter Classic where he lost to Mark Selby.
World number 36 Ford made breaks of 76 and 80 in taking the first four frames. Perry pulled one back with a 121 and had chances in frame six but Ford crucially took it on the final black. Frame seven went Perry’s way but when he missed the black off the last red at 45-56 in the eighth his chance was gone as Ford potted yellow, green and brown to clinch the result.
“Joe let me off today, I expected him to play better,” said Ford. “Winning the sixth frame to go 5-1 was a big moment.
“Ronnie is the greatest player ever and I know I will need to score heavily to have a chance. The fans will cheer him on and 99% will be on his side.”
Asked how he would prepare for tomorrow, Ford added: “I just want to get back to my hotel room now because my three-year-old son Jack was in a nativity play today so I want to see the pictures and videos.”