RONNIE O’Sullivan will be taking nothing for granted against world No.81 Jordan Brown as the Rocket bids for a record-equalling fifth Welsh Open title, writes Paul Martin.
O’Sullivan breezed past Mark Williams 6-1 in the last four and has dropped just two frames at Celtic Manor during his serene progress to a 56th ranking final.
His opponent Brown had never been beyond the last eight before this week and arrived in Newport as a 750-1 shot but has stunned both Mark Selby and Stephen Maguire, thumping the latter 6-1 on Saturday after beginning with a 135 clearance, to reach the showpiece occasion.
“Jordan is a really good player with good temperament,” O’Sullivan said ahead of the first ever meeting between the two players.
“He strikes the ball well and he’s done well against a lot of very good players. He’s always given Selby a tough match and you’ve got to be good to do that.
“He’s dedicated, plays in all the tournaments and puts the work in. I’m sure Mark Allen has helped with his development and it has been brilliant to see him get something out the game.”
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The 45-year-old can draw level with John Higgins as the most successful player in Welsh Open history if he claims his fifth crown, with two of the previous four having been won at the nearby Newport Centre.
The Rocket has not lifted the trophy since it was renamed in honour of Ray Reardon – a key influence in O’Sullivan’s career – but insists that will not add any pressure to the occasion.
“It’s nice to win any tournament – the memories I have with Ray are far more important than any trophy,” he said.
“I’m sure he’ll be at home watching.
“I just love playing at Newport. Every time I turned up there were hardly any fans, and as soon as I played my match it was packed out.
“It was just nice to know they came to support me from start to finish. I played some of my best snooker there.”
Brown admitted after his own semi-final victory that O’Sullivan would be his preferred opponent, having idolised the 36-time ranking event winner for the best part of three decades.
The player known as the Antrim Ferrari has been on a remarkable journey of his own in recent years and revealed he has come close to hanging up his cue in the past.
But the 33-year-old now has the opportunity to become the first Northern Irishman to win this event – while his performances in Newport have also booked his place in next week’s lucrative Players Championship.
“It’s all just clicked,” he said. “A final has come sooner than I expected but I’ve always believed I had the ability to do something in the game.
“I had some tough years and I was on the verge of quitting. I was getting up at half five in the morning to work in a petrol station.
“To think about that compared to now is very emotional.
“Ronnie is the greatest ever, no doubt about it. It will be a showpiece occasion for everyone back home, it’s just a shame I can’t have friends and family here.
“But everybody is cheering me on, my phone is full of messages. I’ve just got to keep it up.”
Despite his adulation for his opponent on the table, Brown was riled by O’Sullivan’s Crucible comments last year about the quality of mid-ranking players.
The Rocket said he would ‘have to lose an arm and a leg to drop out the top 50’ while progressing to his sixth World Championship title and the 33-year-old will be using those comments as motivation today.
“The top 50 stuff was really annoying and drove me on,” he said.
“He doesn’t realise there are so many players striving to be like him – he is the benchmark. The game isn’t as easy as he makes it look.”