Early selection Neil Robertson needs to overcome Ronnie O’Sullivan to land our each-way odds of 7/1 in the second Shanghai Masters semi-final which starts early on Saturday morning. I have to confess this match-up did not look likely during much of Thursday’s quarter-final between ‘King Ronnie’ and Kyren Wilson as the master cue-man was all at sea and 5-frames-to-1 down against his younger rival.

To be honest, I had begun assessing the merits of a Robertson/Wilson semi when the scores were 3-1. But, despite O’Sullivan being woeful for the first six frames, he finally found his stride and, aided by Wilson capitulating badly, he managed to rattle off five consecutive winning frames to prevail 6-5.

O’Sullivan and Robertson are friends away from the table but on it, O’Sullivan has been akin to a playground bully, beating the Australian in 17 of the 25 matches they have played in public. Their last two meetings both came in March 2019 and both were in finals. O’Sullivan claimed the pair, the Players Championship (10-4) and the Tour Championship (13-10).

But since then, we know O’Sullivan suffered that inexplicable first-round World Championship defeat and he looked truly dreadful for much of Thursday’s narrow victory. Of course, fans will point out he recorded 136 and 132 breaks in his opening round 6-0 demolition of outclassed Zhang Yi and netted another two 100+ breaks once warming up against Wilson in the quarter-finals.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20: Ronnie O'Sullivan of England reacts during The Dafabet Masters Final between Judd Trump of England and Ronnie O'Sullivan of England at Alexandra Palace on January 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Therein lays Robertson’s key to success; tight frames and messy tables, where O’Sullivan cannot hit full stride and could easily succumb to technical snooker where the inference is on safety play and old fashioned low-scoring snooker.

That’s not to say Robertson cannot score highly; he is a prolific break builder who has posted two 100+ breaks (115 best) en-route to this semi-final clash. His victims were Ding Junhui (beaten 6-3) and Barry Hawkins (6-2). Interestingly, he raced to a 4-0 lead in both matches and averaged 66 points per-frame in both.

Unlike Wilson, Robertson is not going to open up a four-frame lead against O’Sullivan and let it slip and, while he may not always prevail against the legend, he’s been around long enough to know what’s required to beat the five-time world champion.

Most importantly the ‘Melbourne Machine’ is producing some brilliant snooker and has not played a single frame where his attitude, demeanour or determination can be questioned. O’Sullivan, in a rare display of emotion, was banging on the table in frustration at his misses on Thursday.

On the recent evidence, I firmly believe Robertson can prosper against his old rival on Saturday and the step up to a ‘best of 19 frames’ format will work in his favour. Handicap options are available but in the scheme of things, the 8/5 about a straightforward Robertson victory outweighs, in terms of value, the merit of playing him on a +1.5 frame handicap whereby a 9-10 loss would be good enough to collect.

Tip: Neil Robertson to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion