Snooker: Bond takes initiative

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The Independent Online
NIGEL BOND, the defending champion, led Ronnie O'Sullivan, attempting to complete a Scottish Open/Scottish Masters double, 5-3 in their best of 11 frames semi-final of the Regal Scottish Masters at Motherwell Civic Centre.

O'Sullivan is an enigma with infinite variations, an instrument of high virtuosity and self-destructive ineptitude, often within the same match or even the same frame.

He is a cheery, sociable fellow but his snooker easily depresses him. If he can not produce his best form, he does not readily buckle down to grinding out a win in the lower gears.

So frustrated was he with his shortcomings that he seemed almost indifferent to his fate as his 5-2 quarter-final lead over Mark Williams, the Benson and Hedges Masters champion, became 5-5 before he summoned a match-winning 31 late in the decider.

His form again disappointed him yesterday as he lost two of the first three frames. He made 63 to leave Bond needing three snookers in the fourth but a careless in-off and two failed escapes gave Bond the penalty points he needed before he cleared the last four colours to lead 3-1.

Bond also came from behind to make this 4-1 with a 40 clearance to the fifth on the black.

O'Sullivan reduced this to 4-3, making a classy 74 in the seventh, but an easy red eluded him when he was first in with 47 in the eighth. Ultimately, he attempted an ill-advised double of the last red and Bond, with 31, once more got up to win on the black to go two up with three to play.

One of the questions the new season raises is whether the Stephen Hendry era has ended or simply been interrupted. For the first time since May 1990, he is neither No 1 in the world rankings nor world champion, both of which distinctions his fellow Scot, John Higgins, appropriated at the Crucible last spring. They were meeting in the other semi-final last night.