May 3 2012
Ronnie O'Sullivan has not seemed like a man in need of a helping hand as he pursues a fourth Betfred.com World Championship title but he benefited from the sportsmanship of Matthew Stevens.
Stevens called a costly foul on himself - one which referee Brendan Moore and O'Sullivan had apparently not spotted - in the second frame of an opening semi-final session from which he came out trailing 5-3. It was a rare moment worthy of note, another being a fire alarm in the opening frame, as Stevens and O'Sullivan produced a session to forget.
Welsh potter Stevens, in his first semi-final since 2005, the year that he finished runner-up to Shaun Murphy in his second final, would undoubtedly have taken a 5-3 deficit at the midway point of the session, when he trailed 4-0.
Having dropped the opening frame, Stevens had a chance in the next. He potted a red and rather than play a pot looked to run up behind the yellow. He made connection but immediately called a push shot on himself. O'Sullivan tapped the table in approval of his opponent and benefited from a free ball, compiling a 52 break that gave him a two-frame lead.
Runs to 66 and 49 gave O'Sullivan his four-frame cushion, and without hitting the spectacular form which carried him through to the last four the 36-year-old looked entirely comfortable. His performance after the interval, therefore, was hard to fathom.
Stevens scraped his way back to 4-2, O'Sullivan took a messy seventh frame, before an 80 from the Carmarthen man kept him well in the match. They resume on Friday afternoon and are scheduled to play two sessions on Saturday.
O'Sullivan had entered the match with a phlegmatic attitude, having beaten three former world champions already in the tournament, starting with Peter Ebdon, followed by Mark Williams and Neil Robertson. The mission, O'Sullivan said, was to savour the occasion - the outcome a secondary issue.
"It's nice to just enjoy the game and play it with a bit of openness. That's my natural game," O'Sullivan said. "As long as I'm cueing well, I feel I can be quite aggressive in the balls and that's the key. That's my game to be aggressive.
"I'm just pleased to have had a little run in this. If I get through another match then great - if I don't it's no big deal. I've had a good go; I've enjoyed it. There's more to life. If it falls apart, it falls apart. What can I do about that?"