Ronnie O’Sullivan aims to become the outright most successful player in ranking tournament history by gaining revenge on his rival Judd Trump in the final of the 2019 Northern Ireland Open on Sunday.
O’Sullivan has been locked level with Stephen Hendry on 36 ranking titles since winning the Tour Championship in March but is now just one win away from hitting the summit and breaking yet another longstanding record.
The 43-year-old, however, faces a formidable test against his hungry new rival in a match which signals a mouth-watering repeat of the final here 12 months ago.
The box office pair do battle in Belfast once again, with Trump bidding to shred the script and continue his ruthless dominance of the season so far.
O’Sullivan, who won the Shanghai Masters invitational in September, boasts a phenomenal record in ranking finals, with the only blemish in his last nine final appearances a 9-7 defeat to Trump at the Waterfront Hall last year.
For the first time in over a decade, however, ‘The Rocket’ starts out as the outsider of the two, with Trump having produced undoubtedly the best snooker of the week en route to his fifth ranking final of 2019.
Runner-up to Neil Robertson in last week’s Champion of Champions, Trump dusted himself down and survived an early scare against James Cahill in Round One to prevail in a decider before dropping just two frames in his next four matches.
He then produced what is being hailed as one of the greatest shots in the sport’s recent history on the way to a 6-3 victory over John Higgins in Saturday’s Semi-Finals.
Trump is targeting a 14th ranking title which would move him above Ding Junhui as the eighth most decorated player in snooker history.
Joe Perry and Lee Walker are the only two players to have beaten the world number one in ranking competition this season to date, but if anyone can add their name to that exclusive club, O’Sullivan can.
The five-time World Champion avenged his 10-4 defeat to Trump in January’s Masters final by pulling off an epic 10-9 success in the final of the Tour Championship with three centuries to his name.
The world number three has rarely been tested en route to the final, dropping just eight frames in commanding wins over Oliver Lines, Lei Peifan, Stuart Carrington, Yuan Sijun, Shaun Murphy and Joe Perry – thrashing the latter two 6-1.
In total, ‘The Rocket’ has won 12 of their 22 previous meetings dating back to 2008 and will be determined to add to that record and pick up the Alex Higgins Trophy for the first time.
The final gets underway from 1pm GMT for a total of eight frames before being played to a finish over the best of 17 from 7pm.
Trump: “The crowd support I have got here over the last couple of years has helped me.
“At times I was very patchy and missed easy balls, them calling out and giving their encouragement helped, I think they have warmed to me, especially at the end when I won I felt the love out there.”
O’Sullivan: “I haven’t played in many tournaments this season. I’ve done alright in the ones I have played in, it’s just nice to be in another final.
“I’ve learned from Hendry, you have to be very disciplined. I wasn’t the most disciplined and I had to learn that side of it.
“I think Judd has been similar to me, he has had to learn that side of it, he is definitely the man to beat and he’s got age on his side.”