The World Grand Prix final will be contested between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson on Sunday, with the last piece of silverware for 2021 on the line in Coventry.
It’s an appropriate grandstand finish to the calendar year, an epic encounter that pits two of the sport’s very best players against each other.
Robertson scored well in a 6-3 defeat of world champion Mark Selby on Friday evening, while O’Sullivan negotiated his semi-final test against Stuart Bingham on Saturday.
The latter’s 6-2 victory looks dominant at first glance, but the Rocket was again nowhere near his best as he continued to take advantage of misfiring challengers this week.
It’s unlikely that Robertson will be as sloppy, and O’Sullivan will almost certainly have to raise his standard if he’s to land a record-extending 38th ranking event crown.
There have been five finals and five defeats for the 46 year-old since a sixth World Championship trophy was secured in August, 2020.
For practically anybody else that level of consistency would be praised, but for O’Sullivan it represents a barren spell that has been littered with indifferent displays on the baize.
It’s somewhat amazing that the Englishman can still even threaten for these titles considering he is probably playing several notches lower than where he’s capable of, and it continues to show the kind of aura he still possesses.
Robertson is unlikely to be as fazed by that any more, though, and the Australian will undoubtedly enter this World Grand Prix final as the player most fancied to prevail.
November’s English Open champion has won the pair’s last two clashes, including in last season’s Tour Championship final when Robertson thrashed O’Sullivan 10-4 at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.
O’Sullivan boasts a superior head-to-head record overall, but whether he will be able to stand up to the pressure remains the key question, and the fact that he hasn’t beaten a top-ten ranked player since March will be of concern.
Robertson will know that he’s not playing the imperious O’Sullivan of three or four years ago, and if he can get his nose in front early his opponent’s belief may quickly wilt.
It is, of course, Ronnie O’Sullivan we’re talking about so a sudden burst of magic from the world number three isn’t totally out of the question and wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise either, but for once in his career he’s starting these important fixtures as an underdog of sorts.
A 22nd career ranking title is on the cards for Robertson, who like O’Sullivan has previously won this event before and is hoping to end the year in style.
Live coverage of the World Grand Prix final in the UK and Ireland is on ITV4 from 1pm and 7pm.
Featured photo credit: WST