Ronnie O’Sullivan admits his game is affected by a long-term foot injury, but that hasn’t stopped his pursuit of an eighth Betway UK Championship title as he beat Noppon Saengkham 6-2 to reach the last 16.
O’Sullivan now faces a blockbuster clash with Ding Junhui in York on Thursday afternoon. Ding beat Ali Carter 6-4 which virtually guarantees his top 16 place in the Race to the Masters.
World number two O’Sullivan has won this event in each of the last two years. If he lifts the trophy on Sunday night he’ll become the first player to capture any of the Triple Crown events on eight occasions. Today’s victory over Thailand’s Saengkham was the 90th match he has won in the tournament, one ahead of Steve Davis who had previously held the record with 89.
He was not at his best against Saengkham but breaks of 76, 97 and 65 helped him into round four. However, 43-year-old O’Sullivan is concerned about an injury to his right foot which has troubled him for several months.
“It’s a really bad bruise, it’s quite a common running injury,” he said. “I didn’t run for four months because I wanted to rest it but I started running again four or five weeks ago and it’s just really sore again. I’m due to see someone in January but until then I just have to take painkillers. If it gets any worse as it effects my back.
“I’m not prepared to stop running because I love it. I just have to manage it and hopefully it gets better. I’ll just not run on the days I play and hopefully it will be a bit better by Thursday. I don’t want to pull out.”
Looking ahead to his next match, O’Sullivan added: “Ding is playing well, he looks like he’s cueing well. I’m looking forward to playing him and there will be a few watching in China I reckon! I have a really good following in China, a lot of support out there and I love my time there, I’m like their adopted son. It will be the real son against the adopted son – it should be good fun.”
Resurgent Ding Gets Carter
Ding scored arguably his best result of the season so far with an impressive win over Carter. China’s top player Ding has struggled for form in recent weeks but his run in York looks likely to give him a Masters place, as he is now 14th in the provisional rankings and only an unlikely series of results could deny him a place at Alexandra Palace next month.
He built a 4-0 lead with breaks of 64, 104, 52 and 69, then Carter hit back after the interval, taking four of the next five frames with a top run of 100. But Ding, who won this title in 2005 and 2009, finished in style with a break of 116 to win 6-4.
Maguire Top Of The Scots
In another crucial match in the Masters race, Stephen Maguire scored a 6-2 win in a tartan tussle against Graeme Dott. That puts Maguire ahead of Carter into 16th place – they are tied on £287,500 but Maguire is in front on countback.
Breaks of 115, 60, 81, 106 and 82 helped Maguire set up a match with Michael White or Mark Davis.
“It’s a great result,” said 2004 UK Champion Maguire. “I was worried about today and I was nervous at the start. Graeme has played better than me in the last couple of games so he was going in favourite. I just played better than him.
“I let the nerves get to me today. But the balls were still going in so I’m pleased with that. I’m not going to lie down to anyone. If I don’t play well and the guy beats me, fair enough but I will fight to the death.”
Maguire can still be overtaken in the Masters race by the likes of Gary Wilson and Yan Bingtao but added: “I can relax a little bit because somebody’s now chasing and there’s a bit of a gap. I’m in a better position now than what I was this morning. So I’ll take my dad for a bottle of beer.”
Liang Wenbo continued his valiant run as he beat Eden Sharav 6-4 with a top break of 75. Liang’s mother died last week but having spent a few days in China he is back competing. He now meets Li Hang.