“We have been in each other’s heads for 34 years” - Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams set for Crucible showdown

Ronnie O'Sullivan.Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Ronnie O'Sullivan.
“We have been in each other’s heads for 34 years.”

That’s all the pre-match hype needed from Ronnie O’Sullivan ahead of his Betfred World Championship quarter-final with Mark Williams.

The duo have been fierce rivals since starting out on the junior circuit together in the Eighties.

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Now, a combined eight world titles later, and the old adversaries meet at the Crucible again today, after O’Sullivan, 44, secured a 13-10 win over Ding Junhui last night.

“I have been playing Mark Williams since we were on the junior circuit in 1986,” said five-time Crucible champion O’Sullivan.

“We were in pro-ams together all of the time, then John Higgins came along in 1989. We had some battles as amateurs and then as professionals. We have been in each other’s heads for 34 years.

“Mark has done really well for himself, he’s got a lovely family, enjoys his holidays, he has achieved a lot in the game, and if he gave up snooker he’d just live on the golf course.

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“He’s got a very simple lifestyle, which is brilliant. I am similar, but I couldn’t play golf every day, so I have had to create something else for myself, so that I have something to do when snooker stops being the be-all and end-all.

“We’ll both want to play well because we have pride in performance. Even if we were playing a practice match in the club we would still want to beat each other, so at the Crucible it’s going to have an extra edge to it.”

Resuming at 8-8 against Sheffield-based Ding, O’Sullivan pulled away in a quickfire and high-quality final session which saw breaks of 50-plus in each of the evening’s seven frames. Breaks of 87 and 73 saw O’Sullivan go two frames clear before Ding seized advantage of a rare missed black to reduce the deficit with a break of 88.

O’Sullivan nudged 11-9 in front with a break of 60 and, after Ding cleared to brown in the next with a break of 81, O’Sullivan struck a superb 117 to move within a frame of victory.

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O’Sullivan narrowly missed back-to-back centuries but a 93 break in the next sealed up a 13-10 win and with it a last-eight clash with 45-year-old Williams.

“If Ding had been a bit tighter and taken certain opportunities he could have run away with it,” said O’Sullivan.

“In both sessions I had to come back from bad starts. I was over the moon to be 8-8 at the start of this session. Tonight I just tried to focus and play each shot as it comes, and I’m pleased with how I finished the match off.

“I had a few days at home after my first match which was helpful. When you get out of Sheffield, even to go into the Peak District to have a bit of dinner, it gets you out of that pressurised environment. The emotions are running high because it is such an important tournament.”

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O’Sullivan – into the last eight at the Crucible for the 19th time, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record – is looking to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2014.

For Ding, the wait to become the first world champion from Asia goes on – his only final appearance was in 2016 when he lost to Mark Selby.

He said: “In the first two sessions, Ronnie missed a lot of blacks or pinks off the spot and I took those chances. I played well, but today wasn’t as good as the first two sessions. Sometimes I need to score heavily and I didn’t do that well enough.

“I’m working hard. I’ve got my own academy and I’ve got my own tables. I’m playing more and I’m enjoying practising. I’m just looking forward to the new season. It is a tough time for everybody and for all snooker players, we should take every chance to play.”

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Kyren Wilson claimed Judd Trump already deserves his status as one of snooker’s all-time greats as the pair moved to thaw their previously frosty rivalry ahead of the start of their own quarter-final clash on Monday.

Wilson withstood a fightback from 11-5 down by Martin Gould to triumph 13-9

Wlson said: “Judd is world No 1 and he’s won the ‘triple crown’ now. I think once you’ve got a triple crown under your belt you can go down in the greatest list, and that’s obviously my aim.”

Neil Robertson beat Barry Hawkins 13-9 to keep alive his hopes of winning a second world crown. The Australian will play Mark Selby in the quarter-finals.

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Leeds potter Oliver Lines has earned an immediate return to the World Snooker Tour after qualifying via Q School in Sheffield.

The 25-year-old beat York’s Paul Davison 4-2 at the English Institute of Sport in the final round, having previously seen off Michael White 4-2 and Frenchman Brian Ochoiski 4-3.

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