Ronnie O’Sullivan was whitewashed in a Triple Crown event for the first time in his 30-year career as he lost 6-0 to Ding Junhui in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.
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Rarely in O’Sullivan’s glittering career has he been so severely beaten. He failed to make a break over 50, and scored just four points in the last four frames as Ding ran away with the contest.
As World Champion and world number one, winner of two titles already this season and with seven UK Championship crowns to his name, O’Sullivan was hot favourite for the £250,000 top prize in York, but was completely outplayed today. He made several errors over the first two frames, which allowed Ding to build confidence, and from 2-0 the Chinese ace was unstoppable, making four breaks over 80.
The 35-year-old goes through to Saturday’s semi-finals where he will meet Tom Ford or Joe Perry; all three of those players are ranked outside the top 16 and had to come through the qualifying rounds to make it to the Barbican. Ding has slipped to 38th in the world rankings but there is no doubting his exceptional talent. He won this tournament in 2005, 2009 and 2019, and is looking to become the only player other than O’Sullivan (seven titles), Steve Davis (six) and Stephen Hendry (five) to lift the trophy on four or more occasions. If Ding, Ford or Perry win the title on Sunday, that would also come with a top 16 place and a spot in the Cazoo Masters in January.
The opening frame came down to a safety battle on the green, and Ding played a superb shot to swerve around the blue and pot the green to a baulk corner, setting up a clearance. In frame two, O’Sullivan trailed 50-56 when he missed a tricky pot on the last red to a centre pocket, and his opponent punished him for 2-0. A break of 88 saw Ding extend his lead.
Early in frame four, O’Sullivan had a scoring chance but made just 4 before mis-cueing on a short range red. Ding enjoyed a massive fluke on a red to a centre pocket and capitalised with 94. The 14-time ranking event winner picked up where he left off after the interval with a run of 87 for 5-0, and saved his best until last as he rounded off the contest with a 131.
O’Sullivan, who turns 47 next month, said: “It’s great to see Ding play well. He’s a class act. Afterwards I just said to him ‘you played great, go and win it, get the job done.’ I think we’re all Ding fans. Some days you play and it goes great and some days it doesn’t. It was just one of those days, what can you do? Thirty years I’ve been at this game, I’ve taken a few knocks along the way.”
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