Six-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan cruised into the Crucible semi-finals for a record 13th time by wrapping up a 13-5 win over Stephen Maguire on Wednesday.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 in Sheffield.
But despite closing in on Hendry’s modern-era 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 player.
“Stephen is an all-time legend for me, the greatest player,” the world number one 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.”
O’Sullivan had carved out 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.
The Englishman, who will play either four-time winner Higgins or Jack Lisowski in the last four, said he was not at his best but was getting results.
“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.
Maguire eventually stopped the rot in the final frame with a 66 break – but faces an uphill struggle to prevent O’Sullivan from marching into the semi-finals for what would be a record 13th time when the match resumes on Wednesday morning.
On the other table Yan Bingtao fought back in the evening session of his showdown with the former champion Mark Williams. Yan, who defeated the defending champion Mark Selby in the last 16, dug in to overturn a 6-2 deficit, even edging 8-7 in front before Williams took the final frame to make it 8-8.
“I’ve always said that this and the Masters are my two worst tournaments. I actually prefer going to Leicester to play in the Championship League, but you kind of have to show up to this one and give this one your best.”
O’Sullivan is now just two victories away from a record-equalling seventh Crucible crown in the modern era, a landmark held by Hendry since 1999.
After running away with the first two sessions of the match, Wednesday morning’s conclusion proved a formality for ‘The Rocket’, who fittingly confirmed his progression with his highest break of the match and his seventh century of the tournament.