World number 55 Joe O’Connor stunned 2010 World Champion Neil Robertson 6-3 to reach his maiden ranking event final at the BetVictor Scottish Open in Edinburgh.
After four years as a professional, 27-year-old O’Connor will contest a title match for the first time tomorrow when he takes on Gary Wilson. It will be the first time they have faced each other on the World Snooker Tour.
With Wilson himself vying for a first ranking title, there is guaranteed to be a maiden ranking event winner tomorrow. The pair will do battle over the best of 17 frames, with the Stephen Hendry Trophy and a top prize of £80,000 on the line.
O’Connor first qualified as a professional in 2018, when he came through the EBSA Playoffs to earn a tour card. The Leicester cueman sensationally reached a maiden ranking semi-final a year later at the 2019 Welsh Open, where his run was ended by Stuart Bingham. This evening he went one step further by ousting 23-time ranking event winner Robertson.
The result is the latest in a superb run this week, which has also seen O’Connor defeat Zhao Xintong, Ding Junhui, Mark Williams and Ricky Walden.
Tonight’s victory marks O’Connor’s first ever win over Robertson. Their only other meeting came at the 2014 UK Championship, when Robertson prevailed in a 6-0 whitewash. A vastly improved O’Connor fared far better this evening.
Melbourne’s Robertson misses out on a second Scottish Open title. However, the £17,500 earned this week could prove to be important with it putting him into the top 32 on the one-year list. That means Robertson moves into position for a World Grand Prix spot ahead of the qualification cut off at the end of the English Open.
Robertson could hardly have got off to a better start tonight, firing in a break of 137 to take the opener. However, O’Connor is made of stern stuff and wasn’t going to be intimidated. He claimed the next two frames to move 2-1 ahead, before a break of 127 from Robertson made it 2-2 heading into the mid-session.
When play resumed the Australian composed his third century of the match, a break of 116, to lead 3-2. It would turn out to be his last frame won in the tie.
O’Connor restored parity with a fine break of 137 to take the sixth frame. Robertson led 60-14 in the seventh, but O’Connor summoned one of the clearances of the season with 47 to steal on the black. He then moved a frame from victory and stormed over the line with a superb break of 71.
“I’m absolutely buzzing and over the moon, what can I say,” proclaimed a jubilant O’Connor.
“It would mean everything to win tomorrow. It is what you play for. It is why you pick up a cue. You look at the top boys on TV and think that you want to be there one day. After watching Mark Selby’s success, it has inspired me more. He is someone I look up to that has achieved so much in the game. I want to be like that.
“I’ve been waiting for my game to click. I don’t think it has clicked, but somehow I keep clinically getting over the line. I might look back next week and think everything went right. It feels like I’ve got an extra 10 or 20 percent in there, but that might sound mad.
“I will just concentrate on my own game. I’ll make sure I prepare and eat close to the match and get some practice in. I will just trust myself. I’ve prepared well for this tournament. Hopefully my action can hold up and take me through.”
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