• World Snooker Championship

Solid O'Sullivan keeps Hawkins in check

ESPN staff
May 5, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Ronnie O'Sullivan didn't always use his right hand in the final © PA Photos
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Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan is on course to become a five-time world champion after making a strong start to the 2013 World Championship final against Barry Hawkins.

O'Sullivan, who may be making his last Crucible appearance, will bow out on top if the final continues in the same vein on Monday - with 'The Rocket' taking a 10-7 advantage into the two final sessions after an enjoyable evening's play in Sheffield.

It could have been altogether more tense for O'Sullivan, however, had a slight Hawkins error on the final black of the day not cost him the 17th frame - meaning a potential one-frame deficit became a three-frame hole.

The pair were tied at 3-3 in a high-scoring first session that produced six 50+ breaks and two centuries, but O'Sullivan ended on fire with consecutive tons to equal Stephen Hendry's tally of 127 Crucible centuries. Later in the evening, O'Sullivan would make the record his own.

Hawkins, who had never been past the second round of the World Championship prior to this year's journey, began the day as a sizable outsider to O'Sullivan - a man widely acknowledged as the most naturally gifted to have ever played the game.

Understandably it was a nervy start by the 34-year-old who twice allowed his rival to get among the balls, and after one unfortunate kick O'Sullivan made the most of his second opportunity to take the opening frame with a run of 74.

An elongated safety battle started the second frame, but O'Sullivan punctured the tedium with another fantastic break of 92.

Hawkins finally settled in the third, posting a confidence-boosting 88, and he followed it with an 81 to level matters at the mid-session interval. The Hawk's work was done almost exclusively around the blue ball with pink and black tied up.

The 'pot success' statistic now read in favour of Hawkins and he took the lead for the first time at 3-2 upon resumption. More significantly, it represented the first time in the entire tournament that O'Sullivan had trailed, so The Rocket immediately responded with his own run of 76.

Still without a century break in the contest, O'Sullivan next addressed that issue with a silky 113 to lead 4-3, before he sealed a first-session advantage with a closing run of 100.

When they returned for the evening's festivities, it was Hawkins who initially enjoyed the upperhand - levelling for 7-7 after a beautiful break of 133, the highest of his career at the Crucible.

The next stanza would see O'Sullivan setting new records, however, as he rattled off a 103 break to become the outright all-time leading Crucible century maker. Just to prove the previous 128 were no fluke, he then added another century at the next time of asking to move 9-7 ahead.

A three-frame deficit would have been harsh on Hawkins, however - but the luck just was not with him as the second session came to an end.

In a topsy-turvy closing frame that could have gone either way, Hawkins eventually made the crucial mistake. An errant safety attempt on the final black could prove crucial in deciding this tournament, as O'Sullivan gratefully accepted the gift to go into the night 10-7 ahead.

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