Mood swings claim O'Sullivan as a victim once more

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A black mood dropped like a curtain over Ronnie O'Sullivan's desire and talent as the world champion went out 6-4 to Graeme Dott, the world No 14, in their semi-final of the Stan James British Open at the Telewest Arena here last night.

John Higgins, who has already pocketed £163,000 in first prizes from the Champions' Cup and the Regal Scottish Masters, brushed aside Mark King, the World No 13 from Romford, 6-0 in the other semi-final and will play his fellow Scot for the £92,500 champion's cheque.

O'Sullivan's form was a travesty of that which had given him five centuries in his previous 20 frames this week. "I was numb tonight. I was quite happy to get beat,'' said the world champion, who looked ill at ease from the outset.

In the last couple of seasons O'Sullivan has started to come to terms with his volatile temperament and has even fought through depressions to win tournaments without getting into top gear, but last evening he appeared indifferent from the start.

Dott, who had never beaten O'Sullivan in seven attempts, could scarcely believe what was happening and found difficulty in taking advantage of innumerable mistakes. "I'm embarrassed how well I played,'' said Dott, whose highest break of the evening was 40. "It's the worst I've ever played on television. Ronnie didn't look anywhere near focused to play.''

O'Sullivan conceded two frames when arithmetically able to win, the fifth to trail 3-2 when 29 behind with 43 on the table, the ninth to trail 5-4 when 32 adrift with 59 left.

O'Sullivan did manage three frame-clinching breaks of 54, 68 and 68 in recovering from 0-2 to 3-3, but it all appeared a monumental effort in the state of mind which had descended on him and it seemed to be almost with relief that he conceded frame and match in the 10th when needing only one snooker.

As for Higgins, it was his ninth win in 10 meetings with King. "There are certain players you come up against you are more confident of playing because of the record, but Mark's obviously played well to get to the semis so I could not take him for granted,'' said the 1998 world champion.

He settled straight away to a break of 103 and completed his whitewash against minimal resistance with the aid of breaks of 82, 49 and 97.