Ronnie O’Sullivan dismisses ‘superstar’ tag after cruising into last four

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Ronnie O’Sullivan insisted “I’m no superstar” after cruising into the Crucible semi-finals for a record 13th time by wrapping up a 13-5 win over Stephen Maguire.

The 46-year-old reeled off breaks of 71 and 126 in the first two frames of the morning session to surpass the record he had shared with Stephen Hendry for reaching the last four.

But, despite closing on emulating Hendry’s record of seven world titles, O’Sullivan is adamant that the Scot’s dominance of the sport in the 1990s still makes him the greatest.

“Stephen is an all-time legend for me, the greatest player,” O’Sullivan told the BBC.

“He was the Tiger Woods of snooker. Me, John (Higgins) and Mark (Williams) have all done well, but when he was flying he was a superstar.

“When there’s three of us, we’re not superstars. But when there’s one man dominating the sport like he did, like Tiger Woods, it’s a different level.”

Betfred World Snooker Championship 2022 – Day 12 – The Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan made quick work of Stephen Maguire on Wednesday (Martin Rickett/PA)

O’Sullivan had carved a commanding lead despite never quite hitting top form against Scottish qualifier Maguire on Tuesday, but showed glimpses of his best upon the resumption after a missed black from his opponent sealed his fate.

It was another commanding win from O’Sullivan, who started the tournament by losing the first three frames of his first round match to David Gilbert before storming back to beat the former semi-finalist and blow away Mark Allen in round two.

O’Sullivan, who will play either Higgins or Jack Lisowski in the last four, described his performance as “workmanlike”, but said he was looking forward to returning to the Crucible’s one-table set-up on Thursday.

Betfred World Snooker Championships 2022 – Day 11 – The Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan wrapped up the two frames he needed in Sheffield (Martin Rickett/PA)

“It’s workmanlike more than flowing, but I’ve had to learn to steady the ship and I think that’s the key to being consistent – being able to minimise the bad spells,” said O’Sullivan.

“I am looking forward to it. When it comes to the one-table set-up you can relax a bit more, and I’m excited still to be in the tournament and to get there.”

Williams became the second member of the fabled ‘Class of 92’ – who all turned professional 30 years ago – to book his place in the semi-finals as he summoned two spectacular breaks to end the dogged challenge of Yan Bingtao with a 13-11 win.

Betfred World Snooker Championship 2022 – Day 12 – The Crucible
Mark Williams held off the challenge of Yan Bingtao (Martin Rickett/PA)

Williams had seen a 6-2 lead after the opening session evaporate into 8-8 overnight and when Yan took the first two frames upon their resumption if appeared the 22-year-old was set to become only the second Chinese player to reach the last four.

But in a high-quality encounter Williams rallied, hauling level at 10-10 and after the pair shared the next two, the three-time champion drew on all his experience to fashion frame-winning breaks of 68 and 78 respectively.

Williams, who at the age of 47 becomes the oldest Crucible semi-finalist since Ray Reardon in 1985, said: “I can’t believe I’m still competing with the big boys and getting to semi-finals and winning a couple of tournaments – it’s unbelievable.

Betfred World Snooker Championship 2022 – Day 12 – The Crucible
Mark Williams summoned two big breaks to edge past Yan Bingtao (Martin Rickett/PA)

Williams will play Judd Trump in the semi-finals after the 2019 champion recovered from a dismal opening session of the day to reel off eight frames in succession and sink Stuart Bingham 13-8.

Bingham had turned a 5-3 deficit into an 8-5 lead, but his missed black in the next proved the trigger for a spectacular comeback by Trump, who took the last three frames of the afternoon session to set up his grandstand finish.

“I could not pot a ball and I just tried to dig in and not get too down about it,” said Trump.

“I managed to get out of the session at 8-8 which I was unbelievably happy about, and I felt a lot more confident going into the evening session.”

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