Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson have provided the BetVictor Welsh Open with a final to savour on Sunday – and the showpiece many neutrals wanted to see.
For many the two best players in recent years, the pair have not crossed swords in the latter stages of major events as much as you might have thought – or as much as the public might have wished.
There has been only one meeting in a final, and that only over the best of nine frames at the World Open in Glasgow six years ago – won 5-1 by the Australian.
The two big clashes at the Crucible were won 13-10 by O’Sullivan, in 2007 and then in 2012 – when Robertson said he was sure the winner would ultimately go on to take the title that year. He did.
The most recent meeting before today, in a head-to-head that stands overall at 10-6 to O’Sullivan with one draw, was a comprehensive 6-1 win for world No3 Robertson at the Masters last year.
Robertson is a solid bet to make the final of pretty much everything he enters currently, and before Christmas won two big titles back to back, the Champion of Champions and the UK Championship.
But O’Sullivan has been in absolutely sublime form this week, right from opening day and the controversial decision to deliberately snub the chance of a maximum 147 break because the prize was too low at £10,000 plus an extra £2,000 for the event high break.
When a critic as harsh as the 40-year-old is about his own displays says he is playing the best stuff of his life, opponents should be wary and viewers should tune in.
World No5 O’Sullivan said after his 6-3 semi-final win over Joe Perry: “It will be Robocop against off-his-nut guy, I’m all over the shop without a clue! Neil is a machine, I play off my instinct and like to be busy out there.
“You don’t get much emotion out of him, he is bullet proof and as everyone knows I have tried that and it’s not me, I can’t do it.
“I can’t wait. We are very different players but it could be a great match, hopefully I can produce more good form. If we both do that there could easily be eight or nine century breaks.
“Someone has to try and stop Neil otherwise he could dominate for years, I know that is his intention. I’ll have a go at putting a dent in him tomorrow.
“I have played really well this week, some of the best I have ever played and that is a great achievement for me, really some of the best stuff ever over the past four or five years.
“And I have tried to reinvent myself after watching how players like Judd Trump and Ding Junhui were attacking more. Others have done it in their fields, Madonna and Michael Jackson maybe.”
World No3 Robertson, 34, beat Mark Allen 6-4 to take his place in the showpiece, over the best of 17 frames and for the £60,000 top prize.
He said: “It will be fantastic challenge, we have only played one final and that was a best-of-nine frame World Open six years ago that I won 5-1.
“There have been great matches at the Crucible that went 13-10, at least one of which I knew would decide the eventual winner.
“It will be a terrific occasion, a lot of people would have wanted this final at the start. I have won a couple of big titles this season, and Ronnie has won the Masters.
“He won the Masters without playing the three players people thought might give him the most trouble – myself, John Higgins and Judd Trump.”
“But because right now both us are more or less at the top of our games, now it has finally come around it is set up perfectly. I have improved every game, and he is playing superbly.
“I may be considered a slight underdog, but that is fine with me, it will be the first time for ages that has been the case.”
It is a final over distance we have all been waiting for – don’t miss it.
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos