Snooker: O'Sullivan sees off rejuvenated White

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The Independent Online

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the winner of the Welsh Open in Cardiff, the circuit's last port of call, will play Paul Hunter, attempting to win the Masters for the third time in four years, for the £100,000 first prize at Wembley Conference Centre today.

O'Sullivan's 6-4 semi-final win over Jimmy White ended the 41-year-old Londoner's sturdy challenge for a second Masters title 20 years after his one and only. But after his 6-4 defeat of Stephen Hendry, his first success over the seven-times world champion in eight attempts at Wembley and also a 6-4 success over the 2002 world champion, Peter Ebdon, he could not capitalise on his 4-3 lead over O'Sullivan. "'I just felt so tired all day and my cue felt like it was 25 ounces. I think the Ebdon match, coming after beating Stephen, drained me,'' he said.

In finishing strongly to win the three closing frames, O'Sullivan made three timely half-centuries and afterwards described the challenge posed not only by White but his vocal supporters as: "An opportunity to see how deep I could go into myself. I was trying to be at one with myself. When I was in, I didn't want to make a mistake so that the crowd could pick Jimmy up.''

Hunter was assisted to his 6-3 win over John Higgins by the loser's recurrent inability to pot key balls, a failing which has become evermore apparent in the 23 months since he has won a title.

The early frames featured breaks of 96 and 91 by Hunter and 110 by Higgins. At 3-1 Hunter lost a scrappy 29-minute frame, reopened a two-frame advantage with a frame-winning 68 but lost the 28-minute seventh, also very scrappy, on a tie-break black. On 40-0 in the eighth, though, Higgins missed the black from its spot which should not have been a problem, bungled an ensuing safety and did not score again in that frame.

A short-range red undid him when he led by 27 in the ninth and again he could not subsequently score as Hunter assured himself of £50,000 with a chance of doubling it today.

"I was missing balls I should have been able to pot with my eyes shut," said Higgins disconsolately.

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