DEFENDING CHAMPION Ronnie O’Sullivan took early control of his Dafabet World Championship semi-final against Barry Hawkins, opening a 6-2 first session lead at the Crucible on Thursday.
The pair were meeting a year after O’Sullivan defeated Hawkins 18-12 to win the world title for a fifth time. Hawkins established an early 2-1 lead but the Rocket found his range and pulled away to establish a four frame overnight advantage.
Hawkins had come through a dramatic quarter-final on Wednesday, losing seven straight frames from 11-5 up to Dominic Dale before winning the last two to scrape through 13-12.
The Kent cueist showed no after effects of this tension-packed battle as he recovered from the loss of the first frame with breaks of 96 and 76.
Hawkins was in front in the fourth as well but suffered a kick on a red and O’Sullivan eventually cleared last red to pink – which he potted to a middle pocket with the cue ball tight on the side cushion – for 2-2.
O’Sullivan then made an 80 break in the fifth frame and won the sixth after Hawkins had broken down when in on 40.
A run of 108, O’Sullivan’s 138th Crucible century, made it 5-2 and when Hawkins missed a red to the left middle in the last of the afternoon, O’Sullivan did enough to ensure a healthy lead, with the match resuming on Friday morning.
Mark Selby edged a fascinating first session 5-3 against Neil Robertson as the other semi-final got underway on Thursday night.
Selby won the opening frame with a break of 65 but missed frame ball red in the second, letting Robertson in for a winning clearance. Robertson then shaded a 39 minute third before Selby’s superb 133 break made it 2-2.
Selby looked the sharper after the interval, pulling 5-2 ahead before Robertson’s run of 130, his 101st century break of the season, gave him the last of the night.
The match resumes on Friday afternoon, with two sessions scheduled for Saturday as each of the players aim to reach their second world final. Selby having finished runner-up in 2007 and Robertson triumphing in 2010.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.