Ronnie O’Sullivan aims to move a step closer to a record seventh UK Championship title by ending the run of underdog Martin O’Donnell in the Quarter-Finals on Friday.
No player has managed to successfully defend this title since Stephen Hendry back in 1996, but O’Sullivan is now odds-on to break that trend and become the outright most successful player in the history of the competition.
In the tournament which launched his career when he broke through to win the title as a fresh-faced 17-year-old back in 1993, ‘The Rocket’ is now looking to create a further slice of history and underline his incredible longevity at the top of the sport.
The 43-year-old, winner of the Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions this season, has cantered into the latter stages this week, recovering from his Second Round scare against Ken Doherty to sweep aside Zhou Yuelong 6-0 and Jack Lisowski 6-1.
His Quarter-Final opponent looked an unlikely one on paper before a ball was struck ten days ago, but the world number 59 has proved the surprise package at the York Barbican.
O’Donnell is already enjoying the best form of his career and is appearing in his third ranking Quarter-Final of the season, following on from runs at the China Championship and International Championship.
The Londoner pulled off what he described as ‘the biggest win of his career’ by defeating two-time UK Champion Ding Junhui 6-4 in the Last 16 and is now realising his dream of facing O’Sullivan in a Triple Crown tournament, but faces a huge task if he is to pull off another monumental scalp.
The first ever meeting between the two players gets underway from 1pm GMT and will be contested over the best of 11 frames.
Either former Masters finalist Joe Perry or Leicester ace Tom Ford will await the winner in Saturday’s Semi-Finals.
O’Sullivan: “I haven’t been great in the tournament so far. I have played better, but my consistency is better.
“I still get super, super nervous but you have to find a way to manage that. If you have any aspirations to win, you have to perform under pressure.”
O’Donnell: “I’ve played too cautiously for too many years.
“I’ve been working really hard with my coach about being aggressive and against these top players you have to take the game to them because if you go out there and look like you’re afraid to win, they just pounce all over you.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play Ronnie on a big stage, obviously I’ll be massive second favourite but I’m going to do the same thing, go out there and take the game to him and see what happens.”