SHEFFIELD: Ronnie O’Sullivan will carry a three-frame advantage into the climax of the World Championship final here on Monday after building a 10-7 lead over Ali Carter at the Crucible Theatre.
O’Sullivan, in what he has said could be his last match before retirement, needs eight more frames for a fourth world title and Carter 11 for his first.
‘The Rocket’ led Carter, who also hails from Essex, east of London, 5-3 at the end of Sunday’s first session in what a repeat of the 2008 final, which O’Sullivan won 18-8.
In Sunday’s second session, O’Sullivan went 9-5 clear with breaks of 49 and 68 and several low scores as he struggled to regain his earlier fluency.
Carter reduced the deficit with a 59 break before O’Sullivan’s swift 62 restored the 36-year-old’s four-frame advantage.
However, Carter kept O’Sullivan in his sights when he won Sunday’s final frame after capitalising on an outrageous fluke when he ‘jawed’ a red that rolled along the cushion and dropped into the opposite pocket.
O’Sullivan, speaking before the final, said he’d never known a tournament quite as gruelling as this one.
“This is probably the hardest place to come and play. Seventeen days in Sheffield and I feel like I’ve been here two months,” he said.
“For some reason this time it’s felt a bit longer. I don’t know if it’s age catching up, but it never felt this long when I was 21 or 22.”
Several earlier frames were marked by prolonged safety exchanges, with O’Sullivan going 2-0 up before Carter drew level at 2-2.
O’Sullivan had beaten several former champions in Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson, as well as two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens, to reach the final while Carter defeated Stephen Maguire, conqueror of seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry, 17-12 in his semi-final.
Ebdon has been helping Carter with the mental side of his game and O’Sullivan, who gained from the insights of Ray Reardon, six-times world champion in the 1970s, had no complaints.