Ronnie O’Sullivan says he is motivated by the opportunity to “ruin the careers” of his major rivals after he breezed into the ninth UK Championship final of his career with a 6-2 win over Hossein Vafaei in York.
Thirty years after he first won the title as a 17-year-old in 1993, O’Sullivan will face either Judd Trump or Ding Junhui on Sunday seeking to win a record-extending eighth crown and shut out one of the pair from building their own collection of silverware.
“I’m just hanging around so people don’t get as good as a career as me,” quipped O’Sullivan, who ruthlessly exploited a series of costly errors from his Iranian opponent to seal by far his most comfortable victory of a gruelling week.
“If I could stop (Mark) Selby winning a few, and Judd winning a few, and Ding and (Neil) Robertson winning a few – just ruin their careers a little bit – that would be great. Sometimes that’s just a nice motivation to play.”
O’Sullivan was hardly an underdog heading into his first meeting with Vafaei since their controversial Crucible clash in August, but the Iranian was certainly the man in form after rifling seven centuries across the tournament’s three previous rounds.
In contrast the 47-year-old O’Sullivan had laboured through consecutive final-frame deciders against Robert Milkins and Zhou Yuelong, often appearing wayward and unfocused for periods despite booking his place back in the last four.
While O’Sullivan looked more clear-headed throughout their quarter-final clash, his dominance was due in part to an underwhelming performance from Vafaei, for whom errors in five of the six frames won by his opponent served up a disappointingly one-sided encounter.
Vafaei ran aground on a break of 30 in the opener and O’Sullivan swept up with a break of 54 before a 113 in the second frame put him firmly in command.
Vafaei showed a glimmer of fight as his eighth century of the tournament started the charge back level, but O’Sullivan took an error-strewn fifth and restored his two-frame lead after Vafaei missed a shockingly easy red to the middle.
O’Sullivan jawed a shot to the same pocket in the next, but a missed black off its spot brought more pain for Vafaei and when he missed the same colour to the top pocket in the eighth frame, the Iranian’s hopes of reaching a first major career final were over.
“I feel as fresh as a daisy,” added a revitalised O’Sullivan afterwards. “These tournaments are not a problem. I can do it quite comfortably. I’m still happy to have got this far, it’s great and I have enjoyed my week.