Reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan insisted he hasn’t been on the practice table once all week, after booking a spot in the Northern Ireland Open final for the third year in a row.
The 44-year-old started slowly in his last-four tie with Essex rival Ali Carter, in the duo’s first meeting since they infamously shoulder-barged each other in a heated exchange at the 2018 World Championship.
Having trailed 3-1 at the mid-session interval, O’Sullivan rediscovered the sort of form that saw him claim his sixth global title at the Crucible in August, notching five successive frames to prevail 6-3.
And having finished in style with his fourth half-century break of a contest in which he also made two tons, O’Sullivan explained it took him some time to find his rhythm at the Marshall Arena, admitting he hasn’t been working on his game in his spare time.
“I haven’t been on the practice table once this week,” the Rocket said. “I refuse to go on there because there’s so many players around during the week, that as soon as you get on there, there’s someone waiting for you to get off.
“I’m too old to be dealing with that, so I just stay away. I did my practice before I got here so what difference is 20 minutes going to make? I’d rather be chilling out watching a bit of Netflix.
“I got outplayed in the first four frames, he kept it tight and I couldn’t really make an impact on the game. Every chance I got wasn’t a good chance – I could pot a red but I wasn’t guaranteed a colour.
“But I always thought I could turn it around if I could click into gear, like I did against Mark Selby in the World Championships semi-finals. I knew if I could find a bit of momentum, I could get back on top.”
Having dispatched Jamie O'Neill, Elliot Slessor, Matthew Stevens, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Ding Junhui before beating Carter, O’Sullivan has earned another chance to finally get his hands on the Northern Ireland Open trophy after finishing runner-up for the past two years.
World No.1 Judd Trump was the victor on both of those occasions by the same scoreline of 9-7, and O’Sullivan will meet the Bristol potter in the showpiece once again after he got the better of David Grace in Saturday’s second semi-final.
O’Sullivan added: “I’m just happy to be in a final, to be honest. I’ve had a fairly dodgy start to the season but I still think I’ve played okay and I’m cueing okay. To be competing in a final rather than watching it on TV is nice.
“Table time’s important to me – I need it because I’m not practicing as much and it’s similar to flexing your muscles in the gym. I’ve played for three-and-a-half hours today which should stand me in good stead.”