RONNIE O’Sullivan will take on Judd Trump on Sunday in the final of the Dafabet Champion of Champions tournament for the £100,000 first prize at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.
The showpiece will mark the first time the pair have ever met at that stage on a major event – something that Trump admitted was driving him on against Neil Robertson in their second semi-final on Saturday night.
Defending champion O’Sullivan will start favourite to lift the trophy over the best of 19 frames, not least because in their last high-profile encounter he won 17-11 at the Crucible in last year’s World Championship semi-final.
However Trump will draw on the fact that he has already won a title this season in Australia, and has beaten O’Sullivan previously in the UK Championship, Masters and Grand Prix.
Earlier O’Sullivan maintained his stranglehold over China’s No1 Ding Junhui in reaching a first final of the season.
The Rocket claimed a 6-4 victory over world No3 Ding in his title defence, having beaten Stuart Bingham in the final 12 months ago.
And after making two more century breaks world No4 O’Sullivan is fast closing in on Stephen Hendry’s all-time record mark of 775 – standing just 15 short.
The 27-year-old Ding won five major titles last season and has often been tipped as a future world champion.
But against five-time world champion O’Sullivan he has not won a match over long distance in a big tournament for more than eight years.
O’Sullivan, 38, had runs of 105, 91 and 125 to finish the contest, seeing him home in on long-time rival Hendry’s career tally.
And he appears to be warming up in ominous style with the UK Championship and Masters also looming on the horizon.
But Ding, a winner off 11 ranking titles, is yet to fully fire this term after sweeping almost all before him in the last campaign.
O’Sullivan, who also beat Ding in this event a year ago, said: “This time last year Ding had won a couple of tournaments when he came into this and he was much more fluent, he hasn’t really got his season going yet.
“But that is just a bit of rustiness, I think he is the most complete player on the circuit.
“That was his B game and for his B game I still had to graft out there and I had to play well to get a result.
“You get nervous, that is competition for you. Playing against the top guys you have to be on your game. For me, I am just pleased to be in another final – a first this season.
“I thought three or four years ago it was over for me so now everything I get is a bonus.
“I kind of embrace other work – doing my own show with Eurosport –because I really didn’t think I would be playing for much longer.
“But it seems like I am playing well enough to keep winning so I will keep playing until the wheels fall off - and when the wheels fall off, I will get out of here.”
Trump finally closed out his semi-final 6-4 against world No2 Robertson after an incredibly tense 10th frame that saw some superb safety play with the world No11 taking it on the final black.
Both players struggled at times – and for a while Australian Robertson had to contend with a friendly butterfly in the arena that refused to detach itself from his hand.
Robertson’s break of 117 to close to 5-4 was the highest of the match – but Trump fell over the line.
Trump said: “It is the first time I have played Ronnie in a big final and that was on my mind before the semi-final.
“I like playing him and you never know how long he will continue playing, so that is one reason I wanted it to happen.
“I think it will be an attacking match and hopefully good to watch.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos