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Ronnie O’Sullivan v Neil Robertson: Shanghai Masters 2019 preview – Thunder eyeing Rocket revenge

Jamie Shaw in Shanghai Masters

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Ronnie O’Sullivan pounces on Neil Robertson tip turmoil to reach Shanghai Masters final

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Ronnie O’Sullivan sails to a hat-trick of Shanghai Masters titles

O’Sullivan and Robertson renew their rivalry (credit:John Walton/PA Images)

Neil Robertson looks to avenge back-to-back final defeats at the hands of Ronnie O’Sullivan this year by dethroning the defending Shanghai Masters champion at the Semi-Final stage on Saturday.

The box office duo have contested two ranking event finals in 2019, both within the space of a fortnight back in March, with O’Sullivan coming out on top to claim the Players Championship and Tour Championship finals.

O’Sullivan is now bidding for a third consecutive Shanghai Masters title and a fourth in total over the past decade, having embarked on an emphatic 12-match unbeaten run in this prestigious competition.

The world number two, making his first tournament appearance since the World Championship five months ago, has shown little sign of ring rust in winning through to the Semi-Finals after two contrasting contests.

He began by whitewashing wildcard qualifier Zhang Yi 6-0 with two centuries along the way, before staging a sensational comeback from 5-1 down to deny Kyren Wilson in a deciding frame with a further two tons to boot.

O’Sullivan now faces an opponent he has not lost to in any competition for two years, with Robertson looking to finally ground ‘The Rocket’ in his favourite city.

Robertson has competed in all but one of the 12 previous stagings of the Shanghai Masters and is yet to reach the final, but now finds himself tantalisingly close to a tilt at the £200,000 title.

The reigning Welsh Open and China Open champion began his campaign by defeating home hero Ding Junhui 6-3 before brushing aside 2018 finalist Barry Hawkins 6-2 in the Quarter-Finals.

The Australian ace has been on the receiving end of some vintage O’Sullivan brilliance this year, none more so than in the Players Championship final in Preston, when ‘The Rocket’ compiled his historic 1,000th career century break to clinch the title.

However, Robertson will be determined to steal the headlines this time around and break new ground himself as he looks to move a step closer to a title which has so far eluded him.

The two players have met 23 times in total since 2005, with O’Sullivan coming out on top on 16 of those occasions.

Their latest encounter gets underway from 7.30am BST for a total of nine frames before resuming to a finish over the best of 19 from 12.30pm at the Regal International East Asia Hotel.

Resurgent former World Champion Shaun Murphy will await the winner in Sunday’s final after thrashing Mark Allen 10-3 in Friday’s opening Semi.