Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the final of the Champion of Champions after reeling off six frames in a row to beat Anthony Hamilton 6-2 on Friday in Coventry.
In doing so, the “Rocket” compiled a brace of century breaks, taking his career tally in competition to an incredible 900.
Clearly in love with an event that tests him against only the very best in the game, O’Sullivan has now reached the Champion of Champions final in every season he’s played in it.
In its inaugural staging in 2013 and again a year later, O’Sullivan romped away with the title and glory, while last year he was narrowly denied a hat-trick by old rival John Higgins.
O’Sullivan avenged that defeat by hammering the Scot in the quarter-finals courtesy of a whitewash win and, barring an early match wobble, was similarly convincing against old practice partner Hamilton in the last four.
The German Masters champion, who stunned Ding Junhui and Ryan Day to emerge from Monday’s quarter and admitted he wanted to face either O’Sullivan or Higgins on the big stage for what might be his last time, typically fought gallantly throughout.
Indeed, at the outset of the tie it looked as though Hamilton was going to ruffle a few feathers after snatching both of the opening frames on the colours to take a 2-0 lead.
However, O’Sullivan rediscovered his scoring finesse to get on the board with a superb 124 and a subsequent 74 pulled him level at the interval.
The Masters and English Open champion wasted little time after the resumption of play to assert his ascendancy.
O’Sullivan’s milestone century knock occurred in the fifth frame, with a 109 taking him to within a single hundred of the magical one thousand mark that now seems inevitable.
Further runs of 52, 68, and 78 helped O’Sullivan over the winning line and into the Sunday’s showdown for the fourth time in as many attempts – the Englishman didn’t enter in 2015.
The 42 year-old’s recent dominance in both this tournament and also the prestigious Masters every January, which boasts only the top 16 players in the world rankings, is a remarkable achievement given the level of opposition he has had to relentlessly face in that period.
O’Sullivan now stands one additional victory away from lifting the trophy for the third time and pocketing another handy £100,000.
Either Shaun Murphy or Luca Brecel will join him with the duo contesting Saturday evening’s second semi-final, which is a repeat of their China Championship final clash that saw the latter claim his maiden ranking event title.
In fact, Murphy and Brecel have met on several occasions over the last few seasons with many of their contests proving to be memorable duels for one reason or another.
The Belgian got the better of their Guangzhou final to claim his first ranking title at the age of 22 but overall their head-to-head stands at four wins apiece.
Aside from O’Sullivan’s routs, Brecel has arguably been the standout performer of the week so far with victories over Judd Trump and world champion Mark Selby to his credit.
The “Bullet” is enjoying a breakthrough campaign that has seen him break into the top 16 in the world rankings for the first time and he’s beginning to show glimpses of the damage he might be able to do in the sport in the years to come.
Despite the smaller top prize on offer, a triumph in the Champion of Champions would perhaps even exceed his impressive win in China this summer and could elevate him to almost superstardom status.
Murphy, who recorded his first ever wins in this tournament on Tuesday to reach this stage, will obviously represent a difficult upcoming challenge and the Gibraltar Open champion will feel he owes Brecel one having been overturned in four out of their last five meetings.
Given Murphy’s awful record against O’Sullivan and the fact that Brecel overcame him in Guangzhou en route to sealing his crown, the Belgian might represent a fiercer opponent on this occasion but it’s hard to see either of them having what it takes to deny the favourite in his current mood.
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Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)