O’Sullivan and Ding to Battle for Welsh Glory

Everybody has got what they wanted – barring Barry Hawkins and Joe Perry that is.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui will go head-to-head in the final of the Welsh Open today in Newport after coming through their respective semi-finals with impressive displays on Saturday.

The ‘Rocket’, in particular, was at his dominant best, as he rattled off three centuries in a 6-2 victory over Hawkins, a repeat of the World Championship final last May.

Despite those big breaks, the best the 38 year-old produced came in the sixth frame when, 64 points down, he made a magnificent 65 clearance to steal the frame and build an unassailable 5-1 lead.

By all accounts, Hawkins didn’t play badly and indeed could have boasted a 2-0 advantage of his own if he had converted an opportunity in the second frame following an initial century break of his own in the opener.

However, there was nothing he or anyone could have done as the Masters champion was at his ominous best.

Earlier in the day, the best player this season came through unscathed in an albeit tough encounter with Joe Perry.

Perry was hoping to continue an impressive run by collecting his maiden ranking event title at the age of 39 but, while he did put up a valiant challenge, he was left to rue some missed opportunities in a 6-4 defeat.

Ding, though, looked composed and confident throughout as he clearly benefited from the wealth of wins that he has accumulated this season.

The Chinese has now won 39 out of his 41 ranking event clashes for this campaign, which of course has led to him collecting four titles.

Should the 26 year-old go on to claim a fifth on Sunday, he will equal Stephen Hendry’s record for a single season from more than two decades ago.

Ding has faced some formidable foes en route to all of his other successes this season but O’Sullivan will arguably result in his biggest test.

The duo have met in three important finals before – the 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy which Ding prevailed in as a teenager, the 2007 Masters which ended with the youngster in tears following a brutal performance from O’Sullivan, and the 2011 Premier League which the Englishman also comfortably emerged victorious in.

Yet, the Ding now is a completely different animal to the player of those years.

It would be surprising to see him fold under the pressure given how well he has dealt with it over the last few months.

O’Sullivan’s temperament is tried and tested, and there is no doubt that the five-time world champion will want to do one over on his opponent, who he has often spoken of very highly in the past.

It promises to be a fascinating affair and a potential entrée before a mouth-watering main course that could be a Crucible final at the conclusion of the season.

Both players already ooze a bucket load of confidence, but whoever triumphs will see that sky-rocket even further through the roof.

Let’s get the boys on the baize!

The full draw can be viewed here.

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