Saturday, 29 April 2017 09:35
Five-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has been knocked out of the World Championship, losing 13-10 to China's Ding Junhui in the quarter-finals.
O'Sullivan's tournament had been overshadowed by his claims that he had been bullied by snooker bosses.
But he seemed unaffected by the controversy as he scored a tournament-high break of 146 to win three from four frames and get back to 11-9, having trailed 10-6.
The pair then shared the next two frames and Ding held his nerve, scoring a classy 117 to earn a semi-final place against Mark Selby.
Selby was in sensational form to thrash Marco Fu 13-3.
The reigning champion scored 139 and 143 but it was no surprise the latter mark was beaten by O'Sullivan in a match that featured five centuries and 18 breaks of more than 50. Only one of the 23 frames did not include a half-century.
O'Sullivan, 41, who hugged his equally emotional opponent at the end, said: "It was a fantastic match and I am really pleased to be involved. I really enjoyed it. I would rather lose a good match than win an awful one.
"Ding is a special lad, a beautiful guy. He is all good; he doesn't have a bad bone in his body.
"He wants to win this title so bad. He is in a great place and I wish him all the best."
In the same way boxers collapse into each other's arms at the end and say, 'you are a great player'. That moment was very similar, regardless of whether it was a physical contest or not, it was the same mentality.
For all of the times when Ronnie O'Sullivan throws teddies out of the pram, players appreciate other great players. From Ding Junhui's perspective, getting to the final last year was a massive stepping stone. This is another part of the jigsaw puzzle and unlocks the World Championship a little further for him.
Ding has always been clinical in among the balls and he looks very strong in that department, but beating Liang Wenbo from behind, showing heart and determination, and now beating O'Sullivan, he has answered a lot of questions at the Crucible that he has not answered before.
It is a bit like a video game for Ding, he has beaten the boss but now has to go to the next level to face a bigger boss - Mark Selby.
Facing the world champion will be a bigger hurdle mentally and we cannot say how it will pan out. Selby has looked astonishing so far, if Ding beats him, then he has to play someone great in the final. He is only halfway through in sessions played.
Ding, last season's runner-up, is looking to become the first Asian player to lift the world title, and said he "played great".
"I kept my form from the first frame to the last frame and I put him under pressure," Ding said.
"I do not have a good record against him but every time I had a chance I did well. He was not in his best form but he is still good enough.
"Ronnie said I looked a different player and I looked stronger. I thank him. To beat him you have to work hard. I am more confident."
A spirited O'Sullivan comeback before the mid-session break kept alive hopes of him claiming a sixth World Championship title.
The Englishman had won a crucial final frame on Tuesday with a blistering century inside four minutes and, after taking scrappy opener, a rapid break of 97 made it three in a row to cut the gap to 10-8.
But Ding, who has often been accused of crumbling under pressure, responded with a fine 69.
O'Sullivan was in full flow, turning down the chance of a maximum by going for a pink rather than a slightly trickier black during a magnificent 146.
Only Mark Allen and Graeme Dott have ever managed a 146 at the Crucible but neither did so in the seven minutes and 32 seconds it took O'Sullivan to clear up and reduce the gap to two frames.
But Ding, 30, kept his opponent at bay in the closing stages with breaks of 87, 63 and 117 to win two of the final three frames and get over the line.
Barry Hawkins beat Stephen Maguire 13-9 to reach the last four, having made breaks of 126, 98 and 86 in the match. The 2013 finalist faces four-time champion John Higgins next.