EVEN the best players suffer nerves – and that includes Ronnie O’Sullivan. The ‘Rocket’ had to draw on all his experience to avoid a shock exit at the Crucible over the weekend. But as true champions do, the five-time world winner found another gear when he needed it most.
Cambridgeshire cueman Joe Perry will probably not ever get a better opportunity to beat O’Sullivan.
He led 11-9, but could only watch in amazement as his opponent reeled off four frames on the spin with his back against the wall. And just for fun he finished proceedings with back-to-back centuries to cap a fine 13-11 comeback win to keep alive his hopes of a sixth world title.
“It is nerve-racking out there and these are the times where you either rise to it or you don’t,” admitted O’Sullivan. “I have always believed I played the game the right way, and go out and make it happen.
“I would defy anyone to think they have got this [title] the bag, even [Stephen] Hendry in his prime back in the day. He might have been quietly confident arriving, but it is such a pressurised environment someone can get on a roll against you and play great stuff you have to keep your wits about you all the time.”
O’Sullivan, of course, remains an odds-on favourite to win a hat-trick of Crucible crowns having dominated snooker’s premier tournament the last two seasons. The 38-year-old has not lost a match at the Crucible since 2011 when John Higgins beat him 13-10 in the quarter-finals.
That’s a run of 12 consecutive victories which had left the former world No 1 needing three more wins to become the first player since Hendry, from 1994-1996, to win three successive world titles.
He returns to the green baize tomorrow against either Shaun Murphy, the 2005 world champion, or Hong Kong’s Marco Fu.
Meanwhile, on the table 2011 Crucible semi-finalist Judd Trump holds a healthy 10-6 lead over Welshman Ryan Day.
Trump resumed 6-2 up and, although Day had breaks of 107, 80, 55 and 61, he compiled breaks of 64 and 73 to retain his four-frame cushion.
Welshman Dominic Dale holds a commanding 12-4 lead over Crucible debutant Michael Wasley.
Dale, a two-time ranking event winner, compiled breaks of 78, 89 and 62 to pull further ahead having led 7-1 overnight.
Latest scores: Dominic Dale 12-4 Michael Wasley, Ryan Day 6-10 Judd Trump
Today 1pm – Wasley v Dale, Robertson v Allen; 7pm – Murphy v Fu, Day v Trump.