RONNIE O’Sullivan is adamant Stephen Maguire has more trophies in his locker as the pair prepare to do battle in the Betway UK Championship semi-finals.
Maguire stunned O’Sullivan en route to his maiden UK title in 2004, causing O’Sullivan to claim the Scot would dominate for a decade.
If I win, great. If not I’ll be rooting for him in the final because he’s too good not to get his hands on more silverware.Ronnie O’Sullivan
Just three more ranking titles have followed for Maguire, but O’Sullivan is expecting him to pick up more silverware in the near future, with the victor of this clash taking their place in tomorrow’s final at the York Barbican.
“Stephen is one of the proper good guys on the circuit. Everybody likes him and I look forward to playing him,” he said.
“If I win, great. If not I’ll be rooting for him in the final because he’s too good not to get his hands on more silverware.
“I love him. He’s a top guy. If he batters me I’ll still be his mate.”
O’Sullivan defeated Martin Gould in the last eight to set up the contest with Maguire, rattling off back-to-back century breaks in a composed 6-3 triumph.
Gould found himself 5-0 down before winning three-consecutive frames to make the scoreline respectable.
But O’Sullivan was quick to defend his beaten opponent and even compared his style of play to that of former world champion John Higgins.
“I made hard work of it in the end, but I have to give credit to Martin because he put me under pressure,” he added.
“I love watching him play, I think he’s a beautiful player to watch. He has great cue ball control. For me I don’t know how he’s not won more tournaments.
“He’s got such a lovely way of playing the game. He’s like a John Higgins. They do everything efficiently. I like watching and playing with him. We love how he does things. He had some serious bad luck. It was like all the snooker gods were against him, but he went about things in the right way.”
Meanwhile the compliments toward his next opponent were flowing from Maguire, believing O’Sullivan to be at the peak of his powers.
A whitewash looked on the cards after Maguire raced into a 5-0 lead, but three successive frames from Joe Perry put the game in the balance before the world No 20 closed out with a break of 75.
The Scot claims five-time champion O’Sullivan is climbing to new heights in York.
“Ronnie is the best. He’s playing better now than he’s ever done,” he said. “Looking back over the years, I think he’s better than he’s ever been.
“He’ll have the crowd behind him. I actually think it’s harder for him because he’s got the crowd. But he seems to handle it well.
“It’s easy to get up for. He brings the crowd and he’s an entertainer. He’s good to watch. I hope it’s a great match. I’ll go out there to try my hardest. If I lose I’ll be devastated, but it’s like any other match.
“He’s one of the only players I would pay money to watch. It’s always a special occasion playing him because he makes the crowd come out and the crowd make the match. It’s different to any other match you play.”
Meanwhile Perry felt more like Father Christmas than a snooker player during his crushing defeat.
“There were a few early Christmas presents for Mr Maguire,” he said. “It was a match of missed opportunities really. I don’t know what happened, I didn’t feel nervous. You never give up because funny things happen on a snooker table. I got back to 5-3 and missed a long red where I didn’t expect to leave anything, but the balls fell unkindly for me and he made a big break.”
Elsewhere, Shaun Murphy put in a clinical display as he despatched Mark King 6-1 to make the last four in York for the second year in a row.
Three half-century breaks put the former world champion in command at the mid-frame interval and two further breaks of 60 and 75 helped the 2008 champion to his sixth semi-final in 11 years.
Watch live coverage of the UK Championship on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.
The sport’s three biggest events will remain on terrestrial television until the end of the 2023-24 season at least after World Snooker agreed a new deal with the BBC.
The deal means the BBC will continue its comprehensive live television coverage and online streaming of the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Masters.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said: “So many great moments in the history of our sport are synonymous with the coverage they have received on the BBC.The Triple Crown tournaments have a history which can’t be replicated and bring something extra special to snooker fans and those watching on the BBC alike.”