Ronnie O’Sullivan and Kyren Wilson will contest the final of the English Open after emerging from tough semi-final encounters on Saturday in Barnsley.
O’Sullivan withstood a spirited comeback from Anthony McGill to eventually prevail 6-4 against the Scotsman, while earlier in the day Wilson reeled off the last four frames to see off the threat of challenger Alexander Ursenbacher, 6-3.
It means that, despite the fact there were eight nationalities represented at the quarter-final stage, the final is set to be played between a pair of Englishmen on home soil.
O’Sullivan had been the heavy favourite against McGill going into their last four encounter, not least because of a 100% head-to-head record against the 26 year-old but also for the peculiar comments that the latter made after his quarter-final triumph when he stated that if he met the “Rocket” he’d probably lose.
At the outset of the affair it looked as though the Indian Open runner-up was going to lie over and follow his own premonition.
As O’Sullivan easily claimed the opening three frames the game looked dead and buried, but to McGill’s credit he fought gallantly and probably should have leveled the fixture at 4-4 only to miss frame ball, allowing the five-time world champion in for a reprieve to steal the eighth frame on the black.
McGill delayed proceedings a little longer but an excellent 133 from O’Sullivan, his second ton of the match and eighth of the tournament overall, finally secured the victory in front of an entertained crowd at the Metrodome.
Wilson and Ursenbacher also provided a thrilling battle with a break above 50 in all nine frames played between the duo.
Switzerland’s Ursenbacher, still only 21, showed hardly any signs of nerves despite making a maiden ranking event semi-final appearance, and looked well in contention when he led three times early on.
However, the one time he perhaps truly demonstrated his inexperience toward the end of the fourth frame, when he could have cleared to make it 3-1 at the interval, Wilson managed to capitalise and dominated the majority of the remainder of the affair with an array of power scoring – including a brace of tons.
The showdown on Sunday then includes a legend who has done it all throughout his career, and a 25 year-old pretender who will likely boast a selection of major crowns of his own by the time he reaches his esteemed opponent’s age.
O’Sullivan will naturally begin as the favourite for glory but it’s worth remembering that the 41 year-old hasn’t lifted a ranking event trophy since February in 2016 and has lost in his last two ranking deciders in the interim.
Success, though, would bring him level in second on the all-time winners list with John Higgins on 29, and it’d be a dream for the sports pages as O’Sullivan represents probably the only player who could realistically have a crack at winning all four Home Nations series competitions, thus challenging for the incredible million pound bonus on offer.
Wilson will provide a stern test and, indeed, possesses the kind of all-round game that can hurt O’Sullivan – as long as he’s on his game.
In the recent World Open final, Wilson was thoroughly dismantled by another member of the elite, as Ding Junhui inflicted a 10-3 drubbing on the Kettering cueist.
In fact, Wilson will surely be feeling the pressure as he attempts to add to his sole ranking triumph that came more than two years ago at the Shanghai Masters.
Slightly working in his favour is the fact that Wilson has won the only previous meeting with O’Sullivan, coming in the last 16 of the Northern Ireland Open last year, but this is an altogether different prospect.
O’Sullivan, bar the odd blip here and there, has looked in superb form this week and it’s difficult for anybody to live with him when he’s in this kind of mood.
If it’s a close encounter early on, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the situation because his recent record in finals in general hasn’t been too impressive.
However, if O’Sullivan can stamp his authority on the tie during the first session of play, there’ll likely only be one champion over the best of 17 frames.
Wilson, of course, will have other ideas but he’ll probably have to score just as heavily as he did in the semi-finals if he’s to give himself a realistic chance.
Either way, it’s set to be a compelling conclusion to what has already been a pretty good tournament, the first in the UK this campaign.
Live coverage of the final will be on Eurosport and Quest TV.