RONNIE O’SULLIVAN coasted into a sixth Crucible final with a 17-7 victory over Barry Hawkins in the semi-finals of the Dafabet World Championship in Sheffield on Friday night.
O’Sullivan resumed with an 11-5 lead after the second session before the first four frames of the evening were split. But the 38 year-old raised the gears to win the remaining four frames and complete victory with a session to spare.
Having beaten Shaun Murphy 13-3 in the last eight, O’Sullivan thus becomes the first player in ten years to win in the quarter and semi-finals with a session to spare – since he himself did so in 2004.
“It’s all about the final now on Sunday and Monday," O'Sullivan said. "I just want to enjoy my day off tomorrow and get ready to play in the final of what is our biggest tournament and again be competing in the final. It’s just a dream.
“To get to three finals in a row having won two, with the chance to get three, if you’d have told me that a few years ago it would have never entered my thoughts that I could do it.”
O’Sullivan, who won the first of his five world titles in 2001, dismissed the idea that having the whole of Saturday off would be a huge advantage.
He said: “I wish I was playing. I’ve got no structure to my day. At least if I’d been playing I could have got up, had some breakfast, gone for a run and got ready for my afternoon run. I like a bit of structure, I’m used to it.
“I’ll probably play for an hour because it’s something to do. It’s nice to win with a session to spare but I wouldn’t have been disappointed to come out and play again tomorrow. Why wouldn’t you want to play at a venue like that? It’s hard out there but you want to soak it all up.
“You just have to go out there and do your job. It isn’t easy but I’m fortunate that I’ve found a rhythm and come up against players not at their best. It’s a combination of things but you have to be there to take advantage and that’s what I’ve done well. I’ve been clinical. There were moments where it wasn’t ffowing but I knew I had ti stick in there. When you come to win a world title you have to expect to go through all types of emotions. I’ve accepted that. I know I have to accept the ups and downs, hopefully there are more ups than downs.”
O’Sullivan is waiting for the winner of the second semi-final, which looks set to be a close finish with Mark Selby leading Neil Robertson 9-7 overnight.
He said: “They are both top class players. Neil’s no.1 in the world scoring heavily and Mark’s the toughest competitor on tour. I have the utmost respect for both of them. I just have to prepare and go out there and do my job, and hopefully give them something to think about. If I can score and be on my game I’m sure I’ll have a good chance.”
Hawkins had entered the interval still six frames down at 13-7 but missed a yellow to a middle pocket early in the next and O’Sullivan made a break of 103, his fourth century of the match.
An 84 made it 15-7 and he did enough from the chances he got in the rest of the session to power through to the tournament’s showpiece finale.
Hawkins said: “I feel like I’ve been absolutely mentally bashed to pieces. After the first session I knew it was important to get off to a good start against him and I had a couple of horrendous kicks which cost me a couple of frames.
“The match before [against Dominic Dale] took it out of me a little and I just didn’t think I was mentally strong enough. I just felt I was being battered and I felt like I didn't have much in the tank left to give.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.