Rocket receives his reward

Hard-working Ronnie O’Sullivan took another step towards winning a third successive ranking title by blasting into the semi-finals of the British Open in Brighton today.

Hard-working Ronnie O’Sullivan took another step towards winning a third successive ranking title by blasting into the semi-finals of the British Open in Brighton today.

O’Sullivan, who won the Embassy World Championship at the end of last season and the Totesport Grand Prix last month, swept aside Devon’s Andy Hicks 5-1 to win his 14th consecutive match.

Despite comments earlier in the week suggesting he would not play in all of the campaign’s events, O’Sullivan has been slaving away with mentor Ray Reardon to continue his winning run, including several late night practice sessions.

“Nobody has ever questioned my dedication, ever since I was a kid,” he said.

“I love this game and I like to play well. I like working on the practice table and getting things right.

“We have about two hours in the evening to get on with it. Half an hour isn’t enough because Ray likes a chat.”

Hicks, beaten 13-11 by O’Sullivan in the second round of last season’s world championship, was appearing in his first major quarter-final since the 1996 European Open.

He had his chances but missed several easy balls early on as O’Sullivan opened a 2-0 lead.

At 2-1, Hicks had a great chance to clear up and draw level but missed the brown and O’Sullivan took advantage before a run of 79 put him 4-1 ahead.

The 28-year-old, British Open champion 10 years ago, then added the sixth to complete victory.

He added: “There’s a fine line at the top level between winning a frame and losing a frame and Andy missed a couple of vital balls.

“I like to play with flair but sometimes the balls don’t allow it and you have to take your medicine. In the circumstances, I’d give myself quite a high mark.”

O’Sullivan faces European Open champion Stephen Maguire for a place in the final after the 23-year-old Scot thrashed Anthony Hamilton 5-0, ending the match with three successive centuries.

After winning the second frame on the black with the aid of two snookers, Maguire hit a purple patch, firing in efforts of 113, 100 and 104 to seal his semi-final spot.

“I played brilliantly, like I was practising,” he said. “The game felt easy and my head was right.

“I’ve played Ronnie three times and played well every time but he was brilliant in each match. I’ll just go out there and be aggressive and hopefully the balls will go in.”

Hamilton, the runner-up five years ago, admitted he could do little to stop the rout once Maguire hit his stride.

“Stephen is virtually unstoppable,” he said. “He was just flying and he’s the only player here who could stop Ronnie.”

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