Ronnie O’Sullivan powered in to the quarter-finals of the World Championships with a 13-10 defeat of Mark Williams.
In a match of the highest quality that would have graced any final it was a shame that the draw had decreed that the two former champions, who have five world titles between them, had to meet in the second round.
Ronnie was first out of the traps on the resumption. Locked at 8-8 it was the Rocket who sounded an ominous warning to his rivals with a quickfire break of 53 to lead 9-8. But Williams, who had shown a return to form with victory at the China Open in Beijing, was not overawed and quickly responded to level at 9-9 with breaks of 53 and 48. Williams made it clear that he was going nowhere without a fight.
Mark Williams taking on a trademark long red from tight under the baulk cushion (photos courtesy of Monique Limbos)
Like two prize fighters they traded blows; if either man could eke out a two-frame advantage they would surely start to breathe a little more easily. The lucky man was to be O’Sullivan as a clearance to the pink of 104 put him 10-9 up, and then a 75 sent him into the interval at 11-9. Resuming, Williams needed to respond rapidly if he was to halt the O’Sullivan juggernaut and – right on cue – came a clearance of 115. However if he thought it might upset Ronnie’s rhythm he was doomed to disappointment as Ronnie calmly replied with a century of his own at 111.
Ronnie sensed Williams’ despondancy and promptly went for the jugular. Cueing a long straight red from baulk, the red flew into the top corner pocket and the Rocket strutted around the table with the assurance of the tournament favourite. He signed off in style with a break of 106 to set up a showdown with either Mark Selby or Stephen Hendry.
Ronnie O’Sullivan advances to the Quarter-finals after a slugathon with an ultimately unlucky Mark J Williams
Meanwhile Ali Carter survived a stunning fightback from Joe Perry to advance into the quarter-finals with a 13-11 victory. Perry, who had trailed 6-10 overnight, swiftly set about cancelling out the deficit with a break of 62. Bits and pieces accounted for the next two frames as he cut the deficit to 9-10 before squaring the match at the mid-session interval. Perry, a man who had lost to Carter in the semi-finals two years ago, was hell-bent on exacting his revenge and Carter would have been sweating profusely as Perry hammered in a break of 63 to level the match at the interval.
If Carter was hoping that the interval might halt Joe’s momentum he was to be disappointed as Perry then moved in front at 11-10. Allister’s world title hopes were now hanging by a thread and he badly needed a response. He was breathing a huge sigh of relief as he carved out a break of 104 to square the match at 11-11. With that timely break behind him Carter’s game was revived; with precision and control he fired in a break of 82 to move within one frame of victory at 12-11.
Ali Carter in play with the auditorium to himself
The effort of coming from behind had taken its toll on Perry who sat slumped in his chair as he waited for Carter to return to the table. There was plenty to ponder for Perry as the Captain, who hadn’t been grounded by volcanic dust, rather more like a stubborn and unrelenting opponent finally managed to end Joe’s brave bid. With the scores locked at 47-40, one red remained on the table; the cue ball was behind the black and Perry looked for an escape.
Joe Perry put up a brave fight to level at 10-10 after an overnight defecit of 10-6
There was disappointment in store for the Cambridge man as Perry only succeeded in going in off. With the balls at his mercy Carter stroked in the last red and followed with the black. The remaining colours were dispatched without a flicker of emotion as Carter heaved a huge sigh of relief in scrambling over the line with 28 to set up a quarter-final with either Ding Junhui or Shaun Murphy.