Can anyone stop Ronnie O’Sullivan? On this form I really doubt it.
The ‘Rocket’ looks destined to defend his Dafabet World Championship title and join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon as six-time winners of snooker’s premier tournament. Yesterday the 38-year-old roared to an 13-3 win over Shaun Murphy, the 2005 world champion and marched into the semi-finals with a session to spare.
And after his victory O’Sullivan revealed that when he’s at his sparking best his opponents can often crumble under the pressure.
“I don’t think anybody would have beaten me in last year’s final, I felt that good” said O’Sullivan. “Maybe John Higgins or [Stephen] Hendry on the top of their form might have given me a closer game. But if I play like I did in last year’s final again, I fancy beating anybody. You just have play the balls though and each day is different.”
O’Sullivan resumed with a healthy 6-2 lead and wasted no time in powering to a win.
Breaks of 63, 118, 59 and 68 did the bulk of the damage as the five-time champion – gunning to become the first player to win a hat-trick of successive titles since Hendry between 1994-1996 - made it 13 consecutive victories at the Crucible having not lost there since 2011.
“It’s all about playing at a certain level” said O’Sullivan. “No-one will probably ever be able to play at the level Hendry played at, but when you play well it can intimidate your opponent.”
Murphy said: “You’ve got to hit Ronnie hard early to stand and chance, otherwise he rolls you over. But we’ve all got to become more clinical. We’ve all got to raise our own bar and take our chances, because if we don’t he beats us.”
Mark Selby, the 2007 runner-up, led Alan McManus 12-4 overnight and wasted little time in wrapping up a routine 13-5 win to keep his hopes on track. And the self-proclaimed ‘Jester from Leicester’ admits he’s happy going under the radar this year with much of the attention focused on the ‘Rocket’.
“It might have helped coming here this year under the radar, with a lot of the attention on Ronnie [O’Sullivan], Ding [Junhui], Neil [Robertson] and Judd [Trump],” admitted Selby.
“You can get caught up in it, and with less hype this year it has made things easier, and after my tough first-round match I have been able to move through the draw.”