Ronnie O’Sullivan and Marco Fu meet in an intriguing Masters semi-final at Alexandra Palace on Saturday.
O’Sullivan is seeking a record seventh Masters title but is not on top of his game at present, admitting after beating Neil Robertson in Thursday’s quarter-final that he has yet to click at this year’s event. That is certainly true – he could and should have been knocked out by Liang Wenbo on the opening day.
‘The Rocket’ was also keen to acknowledge Fu’s recent improvement, crediting the 39-year-old’s more aggressive game for his upturn in fortunes.
The Hong Kong player has not looked back since he won eight frames in a row to stun John Higgins and win the Scottish Open in Glasgow in December – and his impressive break-building has been to the fore again in this year’s Masters.
After seeing off Judd Trump, who went into the game a 2/5 favourite, Fu dominated his quarter-final against Mark Allen, racing three frames clear before setting a tournament high break of 140 in the penultimate frame of the 6-2 win.
However, as well as hoping to hold on to the high break prize, he is also aiming to land the £200,000 prize which accompanies the distinctive trophy picked up by the tournament winner.
O’Sullivan, of course, is a formidable opponent and popular too, with the majority of the 2,000 crowd likely to be behind him. Fu, though, has the temperament to tame the defending champion.
Form is a big thing in snooker and O’Sullivan has not been playing like a 33/100 shot, even if he there were signs of him returning to form in the closing stages of his win over Robertson.
However, Fu is in the zone and can go one step further than he did in 2011 – when he lost to Ding Junhui in the final – and land his first Masters title. His price of 21/10 has real appeal.