Ronnie O'Sullivan to face Mathew Stevens in the Irish Masters Final
Ronnie O'Sullivan kept his nerve in a disappointing evening session to comfortably edge out Mark Williams and clinch his place in the final of Failte Ireland Irish Masters in Dublin.
O'Sullivan defeated Williams 9-5, but the much-anticipated high-class showdown between snooker's two top-ranked stars failed to materialise as both players struggled to hit top gear in the final session.
They each missed a succession of easy pots, but O'Sullivan managed to keep his head and set up a clash with Matthew Stevens in the best-of-19-frames final.
'It was hard work for both of us, and we were missing balls all over the place,' said O'Sullivan.
'We've played loads of times and would have liked to have peaked against each other - but it didn't happen. It wasn't much of a match to watch.'
The world's best two players fell out with one another at the Irish Masters two years ago, after unflattering comments about Williams appeared in O'Sullivan's autobiography.
The feuding cuemen have not met since. But today's meeting looked more mismatch than grudge match in the early stages as O'Sullivan opened a 3-0 lead and threatened to win the fourth as well.
He broke down on 43 in the second. But Williams made only 29, which let the world champion in for a frame-winning run of 63.
A 74 made it 3-0. But leading 62-0, O'Sullivan failed to make the next frame safe - and Williams cleaned up with 69.
It swung the momentum his way, and the Welsh left-hander fired in breaks of 74 and 57 to level at 3-3.
O'Sullivan compiled a break of 91 to edge 4-3 ahead - before clearing with 63 from 0-46 in the last of the session to claim a two-frame advantage.
At 6-4, O'Sullivan powered in a break of 104 to go three frames clear again. But he lost the 12th on the black in what turned into a comedy of errors.
Both players appeared to feel the pressure as they missed a succession of balls, before Williams eventually stroked home the black to close to 7-5.
More misses followed as the nerves continued, and Williams fluffed his chance to reduce his arrears when he missed the yellow in the 13th - from which O'Sullivan cleared up to lead 8-5.
A run of 52 in the next gave the world number one an early advantage - and he got in again later in the frame to secure victory.
'I still think I could win the title - even if I play like that again,' O'Sullivan said.
'A few years ago I'd have packed my bags and gone home after the first round - but I'm more patient now.
'I'm a bit harder to beat and more able to turn matches around and make things happen.'
Williams had been looking for his first ranking event final since he won the LG Cup in October 2003.
'It wasn't the best match, and I dragged Ronnie down,' he said.
'It showed how far off I am from where I used to be.
'He didn't play well, but I still didn't get anywhere near beating him.'
For all the results from this years Irish Masters click here
Sporting Life - 13/3/2005