World of Sport

Was Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Masters-class sport’s greatest performance?

Ronnie O'Sullivan felt his 6-0 win over fellow Englishman Ricky Walden in the Masters quarter-finals was as close as it gets to his own vision of snooker utopia, writes Eurosport's Desmond Kane from Alexandra Palace in London.

Even by his own immaculate standards, the world champion's dismantling of a helpless Walden was truly something to behold before a bewitched 1500 sell-out audience.

O'Sullivan - from Chigwell in Essex - set a new points record in the professional era of 556 points without reply, usurping the 495 compiled by China's former Masters champion Ding Junhui in a 6-0 drubbing of Stephen Hendry in the 2007 Premier League.

O’Sullivan will face world number one Neil Robertson or Stephen Maguire in the last four on Saturday evening.

If he maintains these rich levels, his rivals are all playing for second place at the invitational event that traditionally involves the world's top 16 players.

O'Sullivan is usually highly critical of his form, at least to the media, but conceded he cannot play much better than what was witnessed in North London on Friday afternoon.

"I played really well today. Sometimes, that is just the way it goes," said O'Sullivan.

"My long potting was pretty good, my safety was okay and my scoring was good. It is tough to play when all three things are coming across so well.

"With YouTube nowadays people can click on matches to watch them. It is nice to put on good performances for the fans, and for people watching on television.

"We are all entertainers and showmen in a way. It is just nice that I was able to put on a good show for them.

"Everything I seemed to touch, turned to gold. I can't argue with that."

O'Sullivan won his fifth world title with an 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins in last year’s final at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, but conceded his exhibition against Walden was close to his fourth world success in overcoming Ali Carter 18-11 in 2012.

O'Sullivan ran in knocks of 79, 88, 72, 134, 77 and 56, but his output was not just about heavy scoring. It was the complete example of tactical nous and supreme long potting from a man at the peak of his powers.

He is probably the greatest player to have picked up a cue. He is easily the best to watch.

"I've had a few performances when I've thought ‘that is as good as you can play," said O'Sullivan. "That was almost as well as I can play. They don't happen all the time, but my standard is pretty decent most of the time.

"You can put in some performances when you even feel excited about it yourself. I remember playing in the 2012 World Championship, and in a couple of sessions in every match I almost felt unplayable.

"I thought: ‘I can't lose here.." and didn't want the match to end. It was that type of confidence flowing through my body today.

"When you hit that type of form, you never want the match to end because it was such a good performance.

"It felt a bit like 2012 today. I could put the white ball on a six pence, wherever I wanted it to go.

“I'm not in that type of form, but I've got that consistency. Performances like that are a lot nearer now that they have been in the past."

O'Sullivan commiserated with world number 11 Walden, winner of two ranking events, who planned to go to the pub after admitting he did not feel like he was involved in a snooker match against O'Sullivan.

He has personal experience of what Walden was subjected to.

“I know how that feels,” said the four-times Masters champion. “(Former world champions) John Higgins and Stephen Hendry have done that to me in the past. I've played Higgins four or five times when I've just sat there, and could do nothing.

"The guy just outpotted, out-safetied me and outscored me. Sometimes you feel a bit embarrassed, but then you think: ‘Nobody else can do that to me’. You just have to sit and enjoy it for what it is.

"Or at least try to enjoy it. Stephen Hendry done it to me numerous times when you just sit there and think..'the guy just doesn't miss’.

“You can feel a bit silly out there sometimes, but it doesn't happen all the time.

"Ricky (Walden) is a good professional. He's won two major ranking events and was in the semi-finals of the World Championship.

"He's a top 16 player and is clearly going to have many more opportunities. He has a great attitude to life and as a professional."

O'Sullivan will prepare for a match in the last four by going for his usual jog.

"I feel that if I don't do it, I've lost something in the day," said O'Sullivan. "Even if it is just a mile or two miles.

"I'm not as fit as I used to be, but I still enjoy getting out in the fresh air.”

Walden was looking forward to a beer after witnessing what he described as one of the greatest performances in the game.

“I think that’s the first time I’ve played in a match when you say that is unplayable,” said Walden. “If he plays like that, he will win every tournament he plays in for the rest of his life.

“That’s one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen. It is obviously the best I’ve been involved in.

“It doesn't feel as if I’ve been involved in a match. I’ve only played a couple of shots. I’m just going to go and sit in the pub this afternoon, have a few beers and forget about it."

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Read Desmond Kane's report from Alexandra Palace here - Kane labelled the whitewash, which took O'Sullivan less than an hour to complete, "one of snooker, if not sport's, finest ever exhibitions".

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