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Ronnie O’Sullivan recovery breaks Hawkins’ heart at the Tour Championship

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Neil Robertson sweeps aside Mark Selby to reach Tour Championship final

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Robertson is eyeing revenge over The Rocket (credit:John Walton/PA Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Neil Robertson: Tour Championship final 2021 preview – Rocket out to do the double

Ronnie O’Sullivan recovered from 9-6 down to stun Barry Hawkins 10-9 and book his place in the Tour Championship final at Celtic Manor Resort.

The Rocket trailed 3-0 and 9-6 in what was an epic encounter with high-scoring Hawkins, who hit breaks of 138, 125 and 103 to move to the brink of his first ranking event final in three years.

But after the Hawk squandered the chance to close out a 10-6 victory in Newport, O’Sullivan came roaring back with breaks of 71 and 90 on the way to forcing a decider, which he subsequently dominated to prevail.

The six-time World champion’s reward is a clash with Neil Robertson in Sunday’s showpiece – and what will be a repeat of the inaugural Tour Championship final of 2019.

“I was just looking for a cue action from start to finish,” O’Sullivan told ITV Sport.

“I felt like I was swinging my arm at everything; it felt like my arm didn’t even belong to my body. 

“I changed my trajectory of how I was attacking the ball; I felt like I could be a bit more positive with it. I started playing with a bit more confidence.

“I feel for Barry; I know he’s been working hard this year. 

“It’s a horrible way to lose, but hopefully he can respond from that. 

“He outplayed me really, but I just got out of jail.”

World number 13 Hawkins, who overcame Judd Trump in round one, had only beaten O’Sullivan twice in the 17 previous meetings between the players.

Nevertheless, he made the ideal start with a stunning 125 clearance, while a magnificent break of 138 – the highest of the tournament – helping him establish a commanding 3-0 lead.

But the Rocket came back firing with runs of 50, 65, 63, 61 and 94 turning the match on its head, while putting him 4-3 in front.

Despite seeing his lead evaporate, Hawkins responded with 65 to square the contest at the conclusion of the afternoon session.

The Hawk, seeking his first ranking event final appearance since the 2018 China Open, began the evening by levelling the opening frame from 48-0 down, but handed the initiative back to O’Sullivan after missing the penultimate red with the rest.

However, the three-time ranking event winner hit back with contributions of 74, 50 and 103 helping him reel off three consecutive frames for a 7-5 advantage.

And although O’Sullivan made 78 in the next, he won the following two frames with breaks of 56 and 73 moving him to the brink of victory at 9-6

Frame and match appeared to be well within his grasp at 47-0 up in frame 16, but a missed red from mid-range was ruthlessly punished by his opponent, who cleared with 71 to stay alive.

Hawkins, who squandered a 5-1 advantage against Trump in the German Masters semi-finals in January, must have had that sinking feeling once more as O’Sullivan closed the gap with 90 in the next.

The 37-time ranking event winner – still searching for his first silverware of this campaign – took a closely fought 18th frame on the green to force a decider, which he controlled to book his place in the final.

“I feel a bit numb at the moment. I played really well the whole match,” admitted Hawkins.

“I felt like I was going to win; I just missed that one red screwing back, then the clearance he made was ridiculous.

“It’s so difficult – especially when you’re not used to winning big matches all the time – to keep yourself calm and composed.

“I missed a couple of balls after that, but I didn’t completely crumble. 

“It’s another one that’s got away really. It’s quite a hard one to take at the moment.”

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