‘Rocket’ Ronnie Hitting Form With 147 Clearance

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

O’Sullivan has seemed imperious when in the balls and building breaks this week, but has maybe not been quite at his very best yet with an uncharacteristically low long shot success rate in the early rounds. In recent years he has rationed his appearances around the circuit, preferring to focus on the major events in preference to chasing ranking points around the world and it seems to be working, although he may need a few matches to ease his way into the matchplay rhythm as a result.

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

His chances of taking a fifth UK title have been enhanced with the elimination in the 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 when beating O’Sullivan in the final) and also the current number one Australia’s Neil Robertson. With the in-form Shaun Murphy also succumbing to the consistency of Hong Kong’s Marco Fu, Ronnie will feel he could well go all the way, although there are still a clutch of top players who could dispute that notion. Judd Trump seems to be coming back to his best and would be a popular finalist for Ronnie if they both make it that far, but there is also the formidable presence of Sean Maguire in the last eight. Robertson’s conqueror was the revitalised Graeme Dott, another strong character who is clearly approaching his best form for some 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 Anthony McGill (practice partner of fellow Scot Alan McManus) in the quarter-finals who struggled over the line to eventually put out former World Champion John Higgins on Wednesday. The matches continue to be played over the best –of-11 frame format that has pleased some observers as the matches are over relatively quickly, but does not favour some of the players and may explain why a number of the fancied stars have failed to sparkle this week.

Another interesting feature of the week (up to this latest round) has been the layout of the arena with four matches in play at any one time. Many feel that it does not lend itself to creating the best of atmospheres for the event, as the crowds are often seated a fair distance away from the action. The reversion to the more common format (for televised events, as qualifying often has multiple games 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 the tension for some of the less experienced players such as McGill, who may be unused to playing in front of large crowds in close proximity to the table.

It promises to be an exciting conclusion to the event on Sunday and who knows, maybe O’Sullivan will have yet more silverware to put on the mantelpiece.
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