After more than three months of a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Crucible champion is set to be crowned.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Kyren Wilson will encounter each other in the World Snooker Championship final this weekend in Sheffield.
The Englishmen each needed all 33 frames from their respective semi-final ties against Mark Selby and Anthony McGill to progress following one of the most dramatic days in World Championship history on Friday.
Wilson won the last two frames to deny McGill in a crazy deciding frame that lasted more than an hour and saw both players accumulate almost 200 points between them.
O’Sullivan later fought back from 13-9 and 16-14 behind to edge Selby in a thrilling battle that had viewers equally on the edges of their seats.
It all sets up an intriguing World Snooker Championship final showdown that will be contested in front of around 300 spectators on Saturday and Sunday.
While the “Rocket” remains on course to capture what many people believe would be a long overdue sixth world title, his opponent is attempting to land the Crucible crown for the first time in his career.
Wilson was in tears after his semi-final success, but the 28 year-old will have to compose himself ahead of what promises to be a monumental match played over the best of 35 frames.
The Kettering cueist has played one match fewer than O’Sullivan in this year’s tournament after being gifted a walkover in the first round, so fatigue is unlikely to play a significant role with regard to his fortunes.
Yet, whether the eighth seed will be able to handle the pressure on what will be the biggest occasion of his life so far remains to be seen.
O’Sullivan, of course, has been here numerous times in the past, albeit not since 2014 when he reached the last of his previous six finals in Sheffield.
That year, Selby halted O’Sullivan’s dominance at the venue and the latter has rarely looked like the same force in the sport’s blue-riband competition since.
Victory on Sunday, though, would see the 44 year-old move one behind Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles, and it would also see O’Sullivan surpass the Scot’s all-time ranking event record of 36 wins.
Ranking news…O’Sullivan will be second if he wins, fourth if he loses.
Wilson will be third if he wins, sixth if he loses the final.
— Matt (@ProSnookerBlog) August 14, 2020
O’Sullivan and Wilson have battled six times previously, with four of those fixtures needing a deciding frame to discover its winner.
Wilson triumphed in the first and most recent battles, but O’Sullivan boasts a 4-2 head-to-head advantage overall.
Two of those ties occurred in finals, with the former world number one outlasting Wilson to secure silverware at the 2017 English Open and the 2018 Champion of Champions.
Wilson has an all-round game and mentality that can trouble any player – very much in the mould of a Selby or John Higgins.
That O’Sullivan has already overcome that kind of test should instill him with a huge amount of extra confidence.
If there had been crowds allowed earlier in the event, O’Sullivan might have struggled to reach the final, but the addition of fans for the final itself will probably suit the 19-time Triple Crown event winner more.
Already so familiar with this type of occasion, O’Sullivan will have a better understanding of how to deal with the pressures that comes alongside competing in a World Snooker Championship final.
As is so often the case, Wilson will be looking for a steady start, especially hoping to avoid the slow opening to his last four bout with McGill when he trailed 6-2 after the first session.
That sort of reverse against O’Sullivan could prove to be ominous, although history this year has already underlined how long matches can swing like a pendulum in favour of one player and then the other.
With half a million pounds on offer for the champion and the coveted trophy in addition, there are bound to be nerves jangling at some stage on both sides of the table.
This 2020 edition, which was rescheduled from its usual April and May slot on the calendar as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, has arguably been the most enthralling and has certainly been worth the wait.
By the conclusion of tomorrow’s play, this year’s champion will finally be known and it has ultimately come down to the final two contenders at the Crucible Theatre for glory.
Featured photo credit: Champion of Champions Snooker