Ronnie O'Sullivan rockets into Newport final

FINAL COUNTDOWN: World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan

FINAL COUNTDOWN: World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan

First published in Sport

RONNIE O'Sullivan beat Barry Hawkins 6-2 with a scintillating display to set up a final meeting with Ding Junhui in the BetVictor Welsh Open at the Newport Centre.

O'Sullivan made three centuries as he delighted a crowd of 900 with his rapid attacking play.

He will now meet Ding in tomorrow's final, with first to nine frames to take the £60,000 top prize.

O'Sullivan will be aiming for his first ranking title of the season, though he has already won the Paul Hunter Classic, Champion of Champions and the Masters this term. Victory would give the 38-year-old the 26th ranking title of his career.

Ding will hope to win his fifth ranking title this season and equal Stephen Hendry's record, set in the 1990/91 season. But he will face his toughest challenge of the tournament in O'Sullivan, who has dropped just seven frames in his six matches so far in Newport.

Tonight's match was a repeat of last year's World Championship final, which O'Sullivan won 18-12. Hawkins made only a handful of errors but O'Sullivan, who has five World titles and is chasing his third Welsh Open crown, was ruthless.

Hawkins started the match impeccably, making a 102 clearance in the opening frame. He could have doubled his lead but missed at 58-0 in the second, allowing O'Sullivan to clear with 67. A run of 114 put the Chigwell ace ahead and he took a scrappy fourth frame on the colours to lead 3-1.

A quickfire 124 saw O'Sullivan extend his lead, and in frame six he came from 64-0 down to win it on the black with an astonishing 65 clearance, pulling off a series of superb pots.

Hawkins pulled one back with a run of 67 - becoming the first player in the tournament to win two frames against O'Sullivan - but resistance was futile as the Rocket wrapped up the match with a 103.

"I scored well but still gave him some chances, every frame he had a chance," said O'Sullivan.

"My long game was OK and my safety was alright. I felt like if I got a chance then I was going to do some damage.

"If he took some of his chances then maybe I would have tightened up, but I felt like I wanted to open up tonight and impose myself on the game.

"I am attacking a lot more now. It is not reckless to be attacking and I feel like I am seeing the balls a lot better."

On his final showdown with Ding he added: "Ding is the in-form player. If he wins this he will equal the record for ranking titles in a season. People talk about records but that record is worth having. You are a winner if you do that sort of stuff.

"For me it is a fantastic opportunity to see where I am at against probably the best player in the world on current form. I am just happy and enjoying my snooker.

"I am not getting too down on myself and trying to leave a legacy on the game. I probably would have won a lot more if I had found this sort of form earlier in my career, but it is better late than never."

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