Best of enemies Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams will meet tomorrow for a place in the Fáilte Ireland Irish Masters final.
There has been no love lost between the pair since O’Sullivan’s autobiography ‘Ronnie’ claimed the Welshman was not “Mr Popular” among his fellow professionals.
“I can’t think of anyone in the game who likes Williams, he just rubs you up the wrong way,” said O’Sullivan at the time.
Williams was not slow in delivering his response and blasted: “If you are stupid, you say stupid things. And if you don’t get on with someone, you don’t get on with them.
“But I always want to stick it up Ronnie every time we play – and there will be an extra bit of needle next time we play.”
Well, they have not met since but now have a chance to take their dislike for each other out on the table.
O’Sullivan booked his passage to the last four with a 6-4 win over Gerard Greene that contained four centuries. He now requires just four more for a career tally of 400.
Williams defeated Stephen Lee by the same score, helped by two tons. His best of 141 also overtook O’Sullivan’s 140 for the high break prize.
“I have nothing to prove against Mark,” said O’Sullivan who also claimed his display included too many errors.
“It will be an interesting match for both of us. These are the type of games you want to be involved in.
“I don’t see it as a grudge match, I have moved on. I don’t really think about Mark – as far as I am concerned he does not exist. But I don’t mean that in a nasty way,” O’Sullivan added quickly.
Williams also declined the opportunity to stoke up the ill feeling after reaching his first semi-final of the season.
“Ronnie is playing to a different class to anyone else,” said the world number two.
“Only Stephen Hendry can get anywhere near him. But playing Ronnie will bring the best out of me. I know I have got to play as well as I did against Stephen Lee – or better - to have a chance.”
O’Sullivan’s answer to those comments was: “I don’t believe Mark doesn’t think he has a chance of beating me.
“You must have faith in your own ability but he may be shrewd to play down his chances. Mark is a tough cookie and it should be an interesting match.”
Their impending war of the baize overshadows today’s first semi-final between quietly spoken Matthew Stevens and Robert Milkins.
It is Stevens’ second successive ranking tournament semi-final after losing to Hendry in Malta while Gloucester-based Milkins – a professional for nearly 10 years – has never featured in the last four.
Stevens has beaten Anthony Hamilton, Ian McCulloch and gained revenge over Hendry to get this far. Milkins, who had to qualify for the final stages, followed up by knocking out Marco Fu, Paul Hunter and Dave Harold.
It is now best of 17 frames over two sessions in the semis with the final on Sunday over 19 frames.