Ronnie O’Sullivan’s comeback win against Andrew Higginson yesterday was a quintessential game of two halves.
In the first half, Higginson was superb and O’Sullivan looked rusty. When he lost the dramatic fourth frame to head into the interval trailing 4-0 his first whitewash in a full ranking event since the 2006 China Open looked possible.
They key moment, though, came in frame six. Higginson was 62-0 ahead and potted a good black with a red close to the green pocket. All he had to do was land on it and that would surely have been that, but it was obscured by the green.
He later potted another good red but failed to land on a colour, in fact finished touching the brown. His big mistake in playing a tap away was in leaving on a long red. O’Sullivan knocked this in and completed a magnificent clearance t bring up 4-2.
After this, O’Sullivan’s confidence returned and Higginson began to feel the pressure.
It was great entertainment of the sort snooker manages to serve up again and again, and eases some of O’Sullivan’s ranking pressures, even though he is still up against it in his fight to stay in the top 16.
His friend, rival and contemporary John Higgins suffered an ignominious 5-0 defeat to Stephen Maguire last night. Remarkably this was Higgins’s first whitewash in a full ranking event since Karl Burrows beat him 5-0 in the 1996 Asian Classic.
If you are as good as Higgins you don’t suddenly forget how to play, but snooker is a largely psychological game.
Last season he put in more effort than ever and got his rewards. It took a lot out of him emotionally and he has been unable to maintain that intensity. He feels flatter and is not playing the sort of snooker that he brought him major titles.
The German Masters is coming nicely to the boil now. Judd Trump will play Maguire in the quarter-finals while Shaun Murphy and Stephen Lee are also through to the last eight, which will be played tonight.
This afternoon’s last 16 matches see O’Sullivan take on Joe Perry, Mark Williams play Stuart Bingham in a repeat of this season’s Australian Open final, Masters champ Neil Robertson up against Matthew Stevens and world no.1 Mark Selby versus Graeme Dott.
It’s an embarrassment of riches: top quality players and proven title winners. Of those left in only Perry is yet to win a ranking tournament.