‘Rocket’ Ronnie Hitting Form With 147Clearance

RonnieO’Sullivan gave a master class in professionalism yesterday at the UKChampionships of snooker in York, beating his opponent, Matthew Selt 6-0 withplenty in reserve. Not content with ‘merely’ qualifying for the last eight inthe prestigious tournament, the ‘Rocket’ recorded yet another televised ‘perfect’147 break to top the high break charts.

O’Sullivanhas seemed imperious when in the balls and building breaks this week, but hasmaybe not been quite at his very best yet with an uncharacteristically low longshot success rate in the early rounds.

In recent years he has rationed hisappearances around the circuit, preferring to focus on the major events inpreference to chasing ranking points around the world and it seems to beworking, although he may need a few matches to ease his way into the matchplayrhythm as a result.

The fivetimes World Champion has been sporting some slightly more casual footwear thanis the norm this week, as a result of coming into the event nursing a brokenankle after a heavy fall while out running (his major hobby outside ofsnooker). After suggesting that it had been causing him some discomfort duringthe earlier matches and raising the possibility that he might have to pull outof the competition if the pain did not improve significantly, he now seems tonot only be coping with that successfully but also hitting near to his bestform just as the later stages approach.

Hischances of taking a fifth UK title have been enhanced with the elimination inthe earlier rounds of a number of his likely main contenders for the crown,such as reigning World Champion Mark Selby (who notoriously ground him down whenbeating O’Sullivan in the final) and also the current number one Australia’s NeilRobertson.

With the in-form Shaun Murphy also succumbing to the consistency of HongKong’s Marco Fu, Ronnie will feel he could well go all the way, although thereare still a clutch of top players who could dispute that notion. Judd Trumpseems to be coming back to his best and would be a popular finalist for Ronnieif they both make it that far, but there is also the formidable presence of SeanMaguire in the last eight.

Robertson’s conqueror was the revitalised GraemeDott, another strong character who is clearly approaching his best form forsome time and seems to be relishing a more ‘carefree’ approach at the table.The quarter-final line-up is completed by Stuart Bingham and Mark Davis.

O’Sullivan,who celebrates his 39th birthday today, now moves on to face AnthonyMcGill (practice partner of fellow Scot Alan McManus) in the quarter-finals whostruggled over the line to eventually put out former World Champion JohnHiggins on Wednesday. The matches continue to be played over the best –of-11 frameformat that has pleased some observers as the matches are over relativelyquickly, but does not favour some of the players and may explain why a numberof the fancied stars have failed to sparkle this week.

Anotherinteresting feature of the week (up to this latest round) has been the layoutof the arena with four matches in play at any one time. Many feel that it does notlend itself to creating the best of atmospheres for the event, as the crowdsare often seated a fair distance away from the action. The reversion to themore common format (for televised events, as qualifying often has multiplegames in play at the same time) of two tables for the later stages should ‘up’the excitement and add to the buzz one feels, but of course may add to thetension for some of the less experienced players such as McGill, who may beunused to playing in front of large crowds in close proximity to the table.

It promises to be anexciting conclusion to the event on Sunday and who knows, maybe O’Sullivan willhave yet more silverware to put on the mantelpiece.