Ronnie Snatches Semi-Final Spot

Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 3-0 and 5-3 down to beat Ding Junhui 6-5 in a thriller at the Champion of Champions in Coventry on Friday night.

The world champion was up against arguably the best player in the world right now, Ding, who has won the last three ranking events on the Main Tour.

The tournament at the Ricoh Arena does not carry ranking points, but is an invitational whereby the winners of various big competitions over the course of the last year or so are eligible to qualify.

And two of the most elite served up a dramatic contest that went all the way down to the final colours in the last frame.

Earlier in the day, the ‘Rocket’ looked supreme as he easily dispatched of Mark Davis, perhaps out of his depth in such esteemed competition, with a comfortable whitewash win that included back-to-back centuries to wrap it up.

Shanghai Masters, Indian Open and International Championship champion Ding had a tougher time of it against Barry Hawkins but managed to oust the Crucible runner-up with a frame to spare 4-2.

At the outset of the group final with O’Sullivan, Ding looked to have all the confidence in the world against the former world no.1 – in complete contrast to many of his other matches against the 37 year-old in the past.

However, their last contest came almost two years ago at the 2012 Masters and the Chinese is a complete different phenomenon these days.

With Ronnie apparently feeling some of the pressure amid rattling a succession of mid-range pots, Ding opened up a three-frame cushion to stamp his authority on the clash.

Yet, perhaps feeling the weight of expectation of going so far ahead so early on in the game, Ding then began to miss unexpectedly and, after O’Sullivan took the last before the mid-session interval, the Londoner also sealed the next with breaks of 63 and 50 to reduce his arrears to only one.

After Ding nicked an important, scrappy sixth on the pink, the next two were shared with two 90+ tallies to put the 26 year-old in prime position for a place in the semi-finals at 5-3.

O’Sullivan, though, dominated the following couple of frames to force a decider, which had people on the edge of their seats.

Ding opened up with a 50 break, subsequently missing a cannon which led to a safety battle that eventually gifted O’Sullivan a chance to get back into the game once more.

It looked for all money that O’Sullivan was going to snatch it there and then but he missed match-winning ball blue on 63 to allow his opponent another chance.

Both players attacked but missed before O’Sullivan finally sunk the blue and pink to complete a remarkable turnaround and victory.

It will be a special triumph for the five-time world champion as he knows how good Ding is, particularly at the moment with his rampage of tournament wins.

In contrast, Ding will no doubt feel deflated having once again been foiled by Ronnie, although one suspects that this time he won’t let the result bother him quite as much as it would have used to in the past.

O’Sullivan’s success sets up another mouth-watering prospect between him and world no.1 Neil Robertson, who has won the Wuxi Classic this season and fired in an incredible 49 centuries to date during the campaign.

That will be the second last four clash on Saturday as Englishmen Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham go toe-to-toe in the first encounter.

An exciting weekend in store then in this inaugural event that has already captured the imagination of everyone involved with some magnificent matches featuring compelling snooker.

The arena was packed to the rafters yesterday, resulting in an electric atmosphere, and undoubtedly Ronnie’s continued presence will ensure that the rest of the weekend will be a sell-out as well.

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