Chigwell's Ronnie O’Sullivan has happy memories of facing Barry Hawkins at the World Snooker Championship 12 months ago but he’s tipped the world No.4 to provide his toughest challenge yet this year.
Despite not hitting peak form, defending champion O’Sullivan has cruised to another semi-final at the Crucible – routing his latest victim Shaun Murphy 13-3 on Wednesday.
Next up on Thursday is Hawkins, the man he beat 18-12 in last year’s final in Sheffield for the fifth World Championship success of his glittering career to date.
And according to the Rocket, world No.4 Hawkins is as stern a test at the Crucible as former champions John Higgins and Stephen Hendry were in their pomp.
“Even before the tournament started I thought Barry was definitely one of the dangermen in this event – especially the way he played against me in last year’s final,” said O’Sullivan.
“He probably played some of the best snooker that anybody’s ever played against me, it was like Higgins or Hendry, just relentless potting, break-building and safeties, he was good in all areas.
“I don’t think anyone would have beat me in last year’s final, I felt that good. Maybe Higgins or Hendry on top form would have given me a closer game but, if I play like that, I fancy beating anybody.
“You don’t play like that all the time so that was a freak game really. If I get going you put that much pressure on your opponent, it’s not your name, it’s what you do on the table.
“If you start scoring really heavily that’s what happens when you’re a top, top player playing on top of your game. But if you don’t perform they’ll sense that and quickly take advantage of it.”
And O’Sullivan’s biggest battle on Wednesday morning against Murphy was against his new cue tip, which he admits is taking a while to bed in.
“I had a tough match against Joe [Perry] and you don’t want to have too many big matches like that, I also had to change my tip after the first session and it was a new one,” he added.
“You want to get comfortable with that, and it’s one of the bugbears of being a snooker player when your tip’s not right.
“No matter how well you’re playing you’re not 100 per cent confident of playing all the shots you want to play, but I was able to play most of them.”
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