Ronnie O’Sullivan avenged his recent drubbing at the hands of John Higgins with a 10-8 victory over his great rival in the Last Eight of the Tour Championship at the Celtic Manor Resort.
Higgins had thrashed O’Sullivan 10-3 in the final of the Players Championship last month, but ‘The Rocket’ turned the tables to battle through a tough encounter in the opening match of the final Cazoo Series event.
Prior to the match, O’Sullivan revealed he had been encountering significant problems with his cue which almost led him to pull out of the tournament.
However, the reigning World Champion soon banished any doubts as he opened up a 5-3 lead at the close of play in the first session, before keeping the tenacious Scot at bay in the evening session to close out a narrow victory.
“It wasn’t as bad [the cue] as it’s been feeling,” admitted O’Sullivan. “It was playable, it’s still not right and I’m still going to have to have some work done on it.
“It feels like it weighs a ton and it’s totally out of balance but the noise and striking was ok so I could play the important shots.
“If he plays well, he beats me probably every time, I’d have to play out of my skin to stay with him but if he’s below-par then I’ve got a chance of beating him.
“For me, he’s the best all-round player and he had a stinker today, that’s why I got through really.
“I’ll take that anyway, especially after the drubbing he gave me a few weeks ago.”
It was Higgins who began the brighter with a break of 72 to clinch the opening frame, before O’Sullivan hit back with successive breaks of 93 and 72 to lead.
Higgins responded superbly with a break of 101 in frame four, after and O’Sullivan had regained the upper-hand, the Wizard of Wishaw made a 74 break for three apiece.
A break of 69 moved O’Sullivan 4-3 ahead, and he extended that advantage to two frames as the pair headed to the interval.
O’Sullivan opened up the evening session with a break of 72 to go further clear, and after Higgins hit back with a 73 break, the six-time World Champion added a 56 to make it 8-5.
A crucial missed blue to the middle from O’Sullivan allowed Higgins to clinch frame 14 before following up with a break of 70 to apply further pressure at 8-7 behind.
A superb break of 101 then handed O’Sullivan his 1,100th career century to move him to the verge of victory, but only to fall victim to an untimely kick in the next frame which allowed Higgins to keep his hopes alive.
A break of 69, however, did the damage for O’Sullivan in frame 18 as he averted the need for a decider and sealed his spot in Saturday’s Semi-Finals against either Judd Trump or Barry Hawkins.
Higgins admitted: “It was a strange game to play in but I think the best man won.
“That yellow I played at the end was systematic of how I was hitting the ball all the way through, I was bashing the ball rather than stroking it.
“The conditions were a little bit difficult, it was a bit heavy.
“Sometimes you can get too down on yourself, it would’ve been great if I could have come here and recreated the form of the Players Championship, but I didn’t.
“I don’t think I played that bad, but just sometimes you magnify the mistakes in your own mind rather than take the positives.”
Tour Championship 2021 Result
Monday March 22
Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8 John Higgins