After a tournament with plenty of surprises and upsets, the UK Championship snooker final at the Barbican Centre in York today will see two former winners pit their wits against each other, in what promises to be a mouth watering conclusion. Ronnie O’Sullivan is a four-time winner of the event (but it is his first UK final in seven years), while his opponent on the green baize, Judd Trump, was the victor in 2011.
Both players have shown glimpses of their very best over the early rounds and the “Rocket” has even fired in a wonderful maximum clearance of 147 in his 6-0 demolition of Matthew Selt in the last-16 (his 13th break of 147 in a glittering career), to be in prime position for the top break prize and an overall windfall of £44,000. Despite still having to manage a broken ankle around the table (which he insists is getting easier as the rounds progress) and to control his own emotions, for which he is openly indebted to the assistance of psychiatrist Steve Peters, his main problem yesterday in the semi-finals was with the form of Stuart Bingham. Bingham had progressed relatively quietly through to the last four but seemed destined to thwart Ronnie’s charge to the title, as he established a 4-1 lead in the best of eleven frame match. That seemed to spur the five-time World Champion on to a higher level as he won the next three frames with breaks over 50 in each one to level the game. Bingham responded again to nudge back in front at 5-4 and stand on the verge of victory with a half-century break of his own. He was unable to withstand the brilliance of O’Sullivan though, as a superb century break and then a clincher of 94 in the deciding frame saw him over the line to face Trump. Ronnie paid tribute to his tough opponent after the match and admitted that he was rather lucky to come out on top, as it seems that Bingham may have let his thoughts drift to the possibility of making the biggest final of his career rather too early, letting Ronnie off the hook in so doing.
Trump also had to battle in his semi-final before progressing through to the final, as he found the in-form Stephen Maguire in no mood to give him an easy match. The final score of 6-4 did not adequately reflect the fine margins between the two players in what became a nervy encounter as the match progressed. Trump set the early pace to establish a two frame lead with breaks of 57 and 63. Maguire looked like taking both the third and fourth but faltered at the decisive moment and lost both to fall further behind at 4-0. The mini-break allowed Maguire to gather his thoughts and he duly clinched the next frame to get on the board, but could not sustain the comeback and went within one frame of elimination in the sixth frame as Trump imperiously made a century break. Staring into the abyss at 5-1, Maguire dug deep to take the next three frames and give himself renewed hope. He was also well in contention in the tenth frame before committing a foul on the last red that proved crucial, as Judd clinically cleared up. #CelebritiesFor Trump, the final provides him with an early opportunity to avenge his defeat to O’Sullivan only last month in the Champion of Champions tournament, a final that witnessed his rival in tremendous form in making four century breaks. Trump made two centuries of his own in that final, but the loss may well play on Trump’s mind (as it has done for many over the years who have played against him), as he knows that any chance could spell the end of the frame, such has been Ronnie’s prowess when in among the balls. He will also remember losing to his old foe in the 2013 World Championship final. Trump will be looking to take an early advantage in the match, as the other factor O’Sullivan is renowned for is his ‘front running’ ability in events such as this. It promises to be a tough task for Trump, but one he is well capable of achieving despite the “Rocket” being the likely favourite to claim victory, as their head to head shows a narrow lead for Ronnie at 7-6.