Ronnie O’Sullivan will play the in-form Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters after both players emerged from contrasting quarter-final ties in China on Thursday.
O’Sullivan, playing in his first tournament of the season, dusted off the cobwebs with an assured opening victory over Neil Robertson and looked even better in his 6-2 quarter-final defeat of another former world champion in Stuart Bingham.
The defending champion compiled a brace of century breaks, including a terrific 140 total clearance that matched his opponent’s high break of the tournament from earlier in the week, in a dominant display.
The 42 year-old’s performance was remarkable considering he has spent the best part of half a year away from the game, competitively at least, and now that he has sufficiently grown into the event he’ll undoubtedly be regarded as the favourite for the title.
However, his next task will be to dislodge the seemingly unbreakable current force that is Wilson, who made it a staggering 19 match victories on the spin with a hard-fought 6-5 success against Ryan Day.
In a somewhat scrappy affair that only properly came to life in the last couple of frames, Wilson recovered from watching Day force a decider thanks to a marvellous 75 clearance with an even better 135 century break to maintain his streak and move into the last four.
Wilson, who won back-to-back tournaments in recent weeks courtesy of his glories in both the Paul Hunter Classic and the Six Red World Championship, last met O’Sullivan in the final of the 2017 English Open, when he was well and truly humbled by a 9-2 reverse.
One of the charms of the revamped Shanghai Masters, now the most lucrative invitational event on the calendar, is a longer format with the semi-finals increasing to the best of 19 frames.
Kettering’s Wilson will hope to improve on his previous two-session encounter with the “Rocket” but there’s no doubting the fact that, despite the younger challenger’s form of late, O’Sullivan will be the one fancied to progress to another major final.
The five-time world champion just seems to thrive under these kinds of conditions, where an elite field is assembled and a huge prize, in this case £200,000, is at stake – highlighted by brilliant records in both the Masters and the Champion of Champions over the last few years.
Wilson definitely has the kind of all-round game that can potentially upset O’Sullivan’s rhythm but last season’s Masters runner-up will have to produce more of the kind of snooker he superbly conjured out of nowhere earlier today to pip Day at the death.
The problem for the 26 year-old is that, even though he’s still only warming up to this campaign, O’Sullivan is already shifting through the gears after a mere two games back on the baize.
The second semi-final will comprise a pairing from either Mark Selby or Ding Junhui and Mark Williams or Barry Hawkins, whose last eight matches are currently ongoing at the Regal International East Asia Hotel.
A full preview of the second Shanghai Masters semi-final, which will take place on Saturday after Friday’s opening affair, will follow.
Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)