RONNIE O'SULLIVAN will take on Mark Selby on Sunday after he reached a record 10th Masters final – edging ahead of Stephen Hendry’s mark.
The Rocket set up the match against the defending champion with a 6-2 victory over Scot Stephen Maguire on Saturday night at Alexandra Palace.
World champion O’Sullivan, 38, called Selby ‘The Torturer’ in his recent autobiography – claiming that despite his admiration for the world No2’s achievements he struggled with his pace of play.
And Leicester Jester Selby has got under O’Sullivan’s skin in the past, coming back twice to beat him in big finals in Wales and at the Masters.
O’Sullivan easily saw off world No5 Maguire, making breaks of 73, 40, 40, 59 and a magnificent 129 to finish up to the delight of a raucous and partisan sell-out crowd.
The match-up with Selby has always highlighted a clash of personalities and styles – and meetings often contain some edge. But O’Sullivan claimed on Saturday he is better equipped to deal with his frustration after working with Dr Steve Peters.
The pair has seven Masters titles between them, four to O’Sullivan, 15 final appearances – and one victory each over the other in finals in north London.
But five-time world champion O’Sullivan goes into the encounter in red-hot form, having given up just three frames in three matches getting to the final this year.
O’Sullivan said: “I used to get frustrated playing Mark, with the pace of the game – I lost rhythm and concentration.
“But since working with Dr Steve Peters I am better equipped at handling situations and my emotions, and I leave the frustration until afterwards.
“He has got to lose a deciding frame of a match here eventually – if it goes that far. 11 out of 11 is a fantastic record but I am not sure Mark will be happy with it.
“He would be happier winning 10-2 or 6-0, you don’t get paid for overtime in this game.
“It is great to set the record for a 10th Masters final, but I would rather have the record for most wins. I stayed patient against Stephen and it was nice to get a century to finish off.
“The crowd was loud but I have plenty of experience of that now, I have been coming here for 20-odd years and played against Jimmy White in this event. It is easy to get sucked in by them but you have to remain professional and do your job.”
Maguire, 32, said: “I started well but after that I didn’t turn up, I couldn’t control the cue ball and went to pieces.
“In six of the eight frames I was in the balls, so I have no one to blame but myself. I didn’t expect to get as many chances against him.
“He handles the crowd phenomenally well, I couldn’t cope with the shouts he gets but he thrives on it.
“But Mark Selby won’t make the mistakes and misses I did, so I don’t know how that final will go. Mark knows how to play him, he has shown that. I can take some positives, it is £50,000 and a semi-final place so it is not all bad.”
Selby said of the showdown: “It is great playing Ronnie any time, but on his home patch of London it is special. I will go out there and play my own game, I never think I can’t beat Ronnie.
“We have seen this week what he can do especially against Ricky Walden but I always believe I can win because of my own abilities. I have beaten him before in big finals and I’m sure I am capable of doing it again.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos