Tour Championship Final: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Neil Robertson

It marks a repeat of the title-deciding showdown from 2019.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson will contest the Tour Championship final on Sunday after emerging from contrasting last-four encounters at the Celtic Manor.

Robertson thrashed Mark Selby 10-3 in the first semi-final on Friday, compiling a hat-trick of century breaks in a surprisingly one-sided affair.

O’Sullivan, on the other hand, was made to battle for his place in the final two after coming from 9-6 behind to deny Barry Hawkins in a decider on Saturday night.

It’s the eighth final of the 2020/21 snooker season to feature at least one of either O’Sullivan or Robertson, and on only a single occasion this term has one of them emerged with the trophy – when the latter prevailed in December’s UK Championship.

Defeats for the Australian at the last hurdle have come in both the Champion of Champions and English Open, while O’Sullivan has suffered final reverses in each of the other three Home Nations events in addition to last month’s Players Championship.

On this occasion, at least one of the esteemed pair will be guaranteed to etch his name onto the silverware and collect the £150,000 top prize.

In the Tour Championship final two years ago, O’Sullivan triumphed against Robertson in an epic 13-11 battle that saw the Rocket equal Stephen Hendry’s career tally of 36 ranking event victories.

Since then, the 45 year-old has of course eclipsed that total with a sixth World Championship crown, but O’Sullivan hasn’t built on that success since last August despite several near misses.

The Englishman arguably still isn’t performing to the heights of his capabilities, but nobody can argue with the fact that he’s trying out there, and although there has been no reward for it so far, reaching five finals in a single season is no mean feat.

For Robertson, the Melbourne man has recaptured his form after a quiet spell in the immediate aftermath of that UK Championship glory.

The 39 year-old has openly admitted to his difficulties with the COVID-19 restrictions and has at times struggled for motivation since the turn of the New Year.

Yet with the World Championship on the horizon, the world number four has sprung back into life at possibly just the right time.

Robertson is bidding for a 20th ranking title, which would take him above Selby on the all-time list into seventh place on his own.

Against O’Sullivan, Robertson possesses an inferior head-to-head record but did win their last tie in the 2019 Champion of Champions.

Prior to that, O’Sullivan had won five on the trot – including two finals – and the world number two has generally enjoyed the better of their more high-profile showdowns.

That said, his recent run of reverses in finals could play into Robertson’s hands, who will be looking for a quick start to heap even more pressure onto O’Sullivan’s shoulders.

Either way it promises to be a fascinating clash between two of the very best protagonists the game has to offer, and it is a fitting manner for the penultimate ranking event of the campaign to conclude ahead of the much-anticipated trip to Sheffield.

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