Baize Watch: Episode 4

Sublime O’Sullivan Dispatches Xiao

Ronnie O’Sullivan produced a virtuoso performance to storm past China’s Xiao Guodong 5-0 and reach the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix at the Guild Hall.

The Preston venue has seen some astonishing displays throughout its 40-year history of hosting major snooker events, such as Stephen Hendry’s 10-5 UK Championship final win over Ken Doherty in 1994, where the Scot compiled seven centuries. The Rocket went into overdrive this evening and the standard was up there with the best seen at the Guild Hall.

The 31-time ranking event winner opened proceedings with three consecutive century runs of 105, 102 and 101. Further breaks of 48 and 55 saw O’Sullivan go into the interval 4-0 up. He made short work of finding the one frame he needed when they returned, firing in a fourth century contribution of 106 to seal victory in just 75 minutes.

Xiao had already secured defeats of illustrious opposition this week in recent Masters champion Mark Allen and four-time World Champion John Higgins. However, he was no match for the five-time Crucible king O’Sullivan this evening. The Rocket clocked up a monstrous 522 points throughout the match to Xiao’s 45 and garnered a 99% pot success ratio in the process.

O’Sullivan, who is currently clear at the top of the one-year ranking list on £425,500, has already won three ranking titles this season at the English Open, Shanghai Masters and UK Championship. Few would bet against him adding to that tally this week, based on his display this evening.

“I do sometimes praise myself and that was a very good match. I can play like that quite a lot of the time, so you can understand when I don’t play like that why I get frustrated,” the 42-year-old told ITV. “I think a lot of it is to do with looking after myself. I’ve been working with a nutritionist and I feel like I’ve got more energy and feel a lot healthier.

“I think I have a slight advantage because I don’t need to chase ranking points and I’m not motivated by that. So I come in a lot fresher and that is where my longevity will come through.”

Stephen Maguire defeated 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy 5-2 with a top break of 68 to reach his third semi-final of the season, where he will face O’Sullivan.

Maguire currently sits in 17th spot in the race to the Crucible and a strong showing this week could prove to be pivotal as he aims to force his way into the top 16 on the latest provisional seedings and avoid having to go to World Championship qualifying.

The Scot was a finalist at the Riga Masters earlier in the season and reached the last four at the UK Championship in December, where he also faced O’Sullivan. On that occasion the five-time World Champion came out on top in an enticing battle 6-4 and tomorrow evening’s semi-final promises to be an equally exciting spectacle.