O'Sullivan still on the ball

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The Independent Online

Ronnie O'Sullivan, attempting to win the Regal Scottish Masters for the third time in four years, will play John Higgins, who has never won a title on Scottish soil, for the £63,000 first prize today.

World champion O'Sullivan admitted after his 6-3 semi-final victory over Marco Fu: "I'm a bit match-rusty. I let a few mistakes dwell on my mind but I still manage to respond. I felt quite nervous when I was 5-2 up."

Kept scoreless by Fu's breaks of 55 and 60 in the opening frame, O'Sullivan went 2-1 up through runs of 46 and 58 in the second and a virtuoso total clearance of 134, a new front-runner for the £5,000 highest break prize.

The key frame was the fourth. Fu, who had beaten two top-eight players, Peter Ebdon and Ken Doherty, earlier in the week, needed only to make sure of the last red to level at 2-2 but it was O'Sullivan who stole it by a point with a 32 clearance.

The world champion was also going strongly with 65 in the fifth until he went in-off in trying to open the remaining bunch of reds. Fu eventually took the frame on the black with a 35 clearance but O'Sullivan regained a two-frame advantage with a run of 71 and after an exchange of frames clinched victory with one of 77.

Higgins, who beat the World No 1 Mark Williams, to win last month's Champions' Cup at Brighton, beat him again last night, 6-1, his 14th win from their 20 encounters.

With his wife Denise, scheduled to make him a father last Thursday, Higgins has been unable to practice with his usual concentration but was business-like and efficient in the arena

After a promising start, taking the opening frame with a 44 clearance, Williams lacked a cutting edge to his game and his loss of the fourth frame was pivotal. Williams missed the pink for 2-2; Higgins potted pink and black for 3-1, went to 4-1 with a 71 break and with admirable consistency in all departments added two more frames to prevail.

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