A rampant Ronnie O’Sullivan looks to clinch a third consecutive Shanghai Masters title at the expense of first-time finalist Shaun Murphy on Sunday.
O’Sullivan has extended his unbeaten run to 13 matches in this prestigious competition and now stands on the brink of a sixth televised title in the space of 12 months.
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 final, twice producing devastating bursts to come back from behind.
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 then took advantage of tip trouble from Neil Robertson to claim six of the last seven frames for a 10-6 triumph in the Semi-Finals, sealing the deal with back-to-back centuries.
Standing in the way of ‘The Rocket’ and a fourth Shanghai title in total over the past decade is his old rival Murphy – who has won just four of their 16 previous meetings.
After a below-par 2018/19 season by his standards, Murphy has hit the ground running this term, reaching the final of the International Championship last month before losing out to Judd Trump in the final.
That defeat was Murphy’s sixth in succession in a ranking final, and though this is now classed as an invitational, ‘The Magician’ will be desperate to stop the rot and lift a first televised title since the 2017 Champion of Champions.
Murphy started out by thrashing Lyu Haotian 6-1 in Round One before edging out Mark Williams in a last-frame decider and brushing aside world number 11 Jack Lisowski 6-1 in the Quarter-Finals.
The former World Champion then swept aside his close friend Mark Allen 10-3 in the Last Four, completing the rout with his fifth century of the tournament.
O’Sullivan has won the last three meetings between the pair, including the 2017 UK Championship final and the 2018 Players Championship final, while Murphy’s most recent success came in the final of the 2017 Champion of Champions.
The box office duo have rarely seen eye-to-eye down the years, and their contrasting styles and personalities make for another fascinating show-down to decide the fate of the £200,000 title in Shanghai.
The final gets underway from 7am BST for a total of ten frames before resuming to a finish over the best of 21 from 12.30pm at the Regal International East Asia Hotel.
O’Sullivan: “I’m proud of any record I can get in snooker, so not losing here in three years is great.
“There have been a couple of times this week where I feel that haven’t performed, that can zap a bit of energy out of you. I think snooker is about whether you can win when you aren’t playing your best.
“Shaun has been player of the season so far, he got to the final in Daqing and there was no shame in losing to Judd Trump. What is impressive is that he has come here and beat some very good players to get into the final again. He is in good form and it will be a tough game.”
Murphy: “It’s a personal best for me this week in Shanghai and it is one of my favourite stops on tour.
“There was a time a couple of weeks ago when I hurt my leg where I thought I might have to miss this year. It’s a bonus to be out here and now I am in the final I’m just one match away from the title.”