Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby have booked their places in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Championship after dominating victories in their respective quarter-final ties at the Crucible.
Having come through a tough test with Joe Perry 13-11 in the last 16, O’Sullivan was expected to be handed an equally testing challenge from 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy.
However, after losing the opening two frames to his fellow Englishman, the ‘Rocket’ steamrolled his opponent by winning 13 out of the subsequent 14 frames to win the match with a session to spare, 13-3.
The scoreline is deceiving as it suggests that the 38 year-old played to the maximum of his capabilities and, indeed, thoroughly dismantled a very capable player in Murphy.
Yet, that wasn’t the case as for most of the encounter O’Sullivan just benefited from the umpteen mistakes that Murphy made while in amongst the balls.
The World Open champion had several chances to keep the match closer throughout the contest but was left to rue one missed opportunity after another as O’Sullivan gratefully pounced.
Despite such an impressive triumph, O’Sullivan, whose pot success was a highly respectable 93%, didn’t appear overly comfortable out in the arena as he failed to make the flurry of sizable breaks we have become accustomed to seeing from the two-time defending champion.
But what O’Sullivan didn’t do, for the most part, was let that frustration get the better of his shot selection, which remained in focus throughout the one-sided contest.
That the Chigwell cueist was able to complete the pummeling with a session to spare is a bonus, as he can now enjoy some invaluable time off for the rest of the day in preparation for a likely semi-final with Barry Hawkins – the player he overcame to lift his fifth crown in Sheffield 12 months ago.
O’Sullivan still isn’t playing anywhere near his best, so the fact that he has coasted his way into the last four will undoubtedly send a message to the rest of the field.
What it doesn’t do, is counter the argument that all O’Sullivan needed to do was show up to eventually earn his sixth world title – one behind the modern record held by Stephen Hendry.
Murphy, a recognised winner and one of the best players in the world, wilted under the pressure as the difference in frames multiplied.
Hawkins, still needing a couple of frames to get over the line against Dominic Dale in his quarter-final clash this afternoon, should potentially provide a tougher test as it has become clear the ‘Hawk’ has been made of sterner stuff since his run to the final in 2013.
Whoever emerges from the bottom half will also feel confident of being able to severely challenge O’Sullivan’s reign.
Selby, so often a bane of O’Sullivan and arguably his biggest rival on the tour, completed his own comfortable victory by seeing off Alan McManus 13-5.
The encounter appeared as if it was going to be a close affair when a protracted opening session ended with a tight 4-3 lead for the ‘Jester’.
However, a run of eight out of nine frames in the second session separated the 30 year-old from Scotland’s McManus, contending his first last eight appearance in almost a decade.
It didn’t take long for Selby to complete the rout this morning and he awaits the winner of the Judd Trump and Neil Robertson duel, which currently stands at 6-2 in favour of the Englishman.
One would imagine that either Selby or Robertson would provide O’Sullivan with the biggest hurdle in capturing a hat-trick of titles but there’s still a long way to go before any potential final featuring any of those three names materialises.
To highlight as much, O’Sullivan and Selby have already won 36 frames to make it this far but require another 35 to be the one lifting the trophy come Monday night.