Ronnie O'Sullivan became the undisputed holder of the most century breaks in competitive snooker history yesterday, breaking the record he had jointly held with the legendary Scot Stephen Hendry. Having tied the record in his previous match at the Masters in a close victory over Ricky Walden, he moved into the outright lead on 776 with a 101 break in the very first frame against Marco Fu. Symbolically, "The Rocket" put his cue down immediately upon passing three figures as he potted the brown ball in baulk, deciding against continuing the break any further. The crowd recognised the significance and rapturous applause followed for what represents a remarkable feat of consistency and break building down the years from the hugely popular Englishman.
Fu seemed to be overawed by the whole occasion as he once again succumbed to O'Sullivan's undeniable momentum to drop out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage, losing heavily in the process 6-1. O'Sullivan moves on into his eleventh semi-final at the Masters as he seeks title number six.
After taking his record, Hendry half-jokingly said that he hoped that O'Sullivan would retire soon as he fears for his record of seven world titles. Ronnie currently has five titles of his own and has hinted on several occasions that he may be close to departing the game, although he seems content enough in his snooker career at present. Hendry leads O'Sullivan with 36 ranking titles to 27, so his place in the record books is still safe on several fronts at present.
As impressive as Ronnie has been this week, his opponent in the semis is looking formidable. World number one, the Australian Neil Robertson had a slightly tougher contest with England's Ali Carter, although the final score was the same as O'Sullivan's at 6-1 in his favour. The run of the balls certainly went the way of the Aussie, but that was in no way a sleight on the game he played and his choice selection at vital stages. Carter had his chances and battled gamely, but found Robertson just too classy on the night.
The turning point in the match was probably with the scores at 3-1, when Carter missed a pink into the centre pocket when well placed in the frame to take it, which allowed Robertson in to clear up. Indicative of his brilliance was a wonderful 127 clearance in the sixth frame that left him one frame from victory and basically ended Carter's resistance. That break resulted from a quite brilliant safety shot that left Carter in all sorts of trouble and no real safety option. Deciding to throw caution to the winds, he attempted an audacious 'all or nothing' shot that spread-eagled the balls all over the table and unfortunately for him did not pocket a red ball in the process. Robertson deserved the opportunity and converted it with aplomb.
Interestingly, it was Robertson who had faced similar expectation over his chance to make the record books last year, when chasing the staggering feat of being the first man to reach one hundred centuries in the same season, which he eventually achieved in his quarter-final match at the Crucible against Judd Trump.
Saturday's semi-final promises to be quite some match and would have made a worthy final one feels, but that is how the draw has worked out this time. Those with tickets for the semi- certainly won't be complaining if the two top drawer players are in the sort of form they have displayed so far this tournament, so expect fireworks and a close match with maybe only one or two frames between them. #Celebrities