World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Ding Junhui 5-2 to set up an intriguing semi-final with Ali Carter at the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open.
O’Sullivan, winner of a record 37 ranking titles, will compete in the semi-finals of a ranking event for the 78th time tomorrow.
It will be the first time the Rocket has faced opponent Ali Carter since their fiery World Championship encounter in 2018. On that occasion, the pair exchanged a shoulder barge and tense words, as Carter secured a 13-9 win.
Today’s victory for 44-year-old O’Sullivan extends his head-to-head advantage over China’s number one Ding to 14-4. Ding will now turn his attentions to the defence of his UK Championship title, which gets underway next week.
It was Ding who flew out of the blocks this evening. Asia’s top cueman fired in breaks of 121 and 87 to charge into an early 2-0 advantage.
However, at that point Ding started missing opportunities and O’Sullivan opportunistically capitalised. Runs of 59 and 58 saw him head into the mid-session interval level at 2-2.
When they returned he claimed a further three frames on the bounce, making runs of 70 and 79 in the process, to emerge a 5-2 victor.
Following the match O’Sullivan denied apologising to Carter in the aftermath of their 2018 World Championship clash, or Mark Allen after they exchanged words in the arena at the recent Champion of Champions.
O’Sullivan said: “I didn’t apologise to Ali and I didn’t apologise to Mark Allen either. I just said, ‘look, let’s move on, let’s not hold any grudges’. It is what it is. I still feel I was right on both occasions. That apology they say I said, definitely wasn’t one. It was more like saying to move on. It doesn’t really matter. I will see you around tournaments and you will see me, we might as well say hello to each other.
“At one point in this evening’s match I’d have been happy just to get a frame. He went off the boil and that allowed me to get back in the game. I just picked up bits and pieces, tried to stay solid and capitalise on any chances I got.
“You just have to win as many frames as you can and try not to lose frames. You have to keep your head down and not look for the winning line. I make it hard for myself. I missed a few balls early on and left him in. I don’t pot as well as I used to. I missed a few balls but that is a natural thing as you get older.”
World number 67 David Grace reached his second ever ranking event semi-final with a 5-2 defeat of world number 13 Yan Bingtao.
Grace appeared his maiden ranking semi-final in an epic run at the 2015 UK Championship, but fell off the tour three years later. He regained his professional status at the beginning of the 19/20 season thanks to his performances on the Challenge Tour.
Following an edgy start to this evening’s match the pair found themselves locked level at 2-2. However, Grace mounted a fearless charge for the finishing line when play resumed. The Yorkshire cueman composed breaks of 70, 59 and 104 to secure the momentous victory. He will now face world number one and defending champion Judd Trump.
“It feels absolutely brilliant. I was really nervous at the start, I just couldn’t settle down. Every time I got something going, I would miss a complete sitter. I dragged him down to my level really, he struggled,” said 35-year-old Grace. “You put in the hard hours in the club, grafting away in qualifiers scraping wins here and there for moments like this.
“What have I got to lose? He (Judd Trump) is winning everything these days. He hasn’t lost in this tournament for about ten years! I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.”
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