Ronnie O’Sullivan heads into a titanic Crucible quarter-final with John Higgins today insisting he is the underdog.
But ahead of the clash with his fellow three-time former winner, O’Sullivan has warned he only came to the Betfred.com World Championship because he believes he can win the tournament.
He converted a 9-7 two-session lead over Shaun Murphy into a 13-10 triumph, ramming in early breaks of 128 and 119 and then surviving a scare when his potting went to pot and his opponent began to fight back.
The match was scrappy in parts, which frustrated O’Sullivan who said his own performance was “not good enough” and tempted him to throw in the towel before regaining focus.
However, the tussle with Higgins has all the hallmarks of a potential classic.
O’Sullivan said: “After the performances you’d have to make John favourite because he’s got to be playing better than that. I’d be surprised if he’s not.”
The 35-year-old Englishman, who is receiving guidance from sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters as he looks to keep a level head, added: “It’s a sad day for me if I start admitting I’m pleased to make the quarter-finals. I might as well turn it in.
“No matter how badly I’ve played, I’ve still come to win. Making the quarter-finals, it’s not about that. It’s about being the best, being the winner. There’s no way I’m coming here to get to the quarters.”
Higgins at one stage had struggled to shake off grinder Rory McLeod.
The 35-year-old Scot was struggling badly yesterday at only 6-5 ahead, but gradually he gained control over the 40-year-old qualifier from Wellingborough, who coaches Qatar’s national team, and won 13-7.
McLeod defended his right to make the most of his best attribute – safety.
“The game is called snooker, it’s not called ’potting’,” McLeod said.
Ding Junhui came from 12-9 behind to stun Basildon’s Stuart Bingham with a 13-12 victory, and reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
The Chinese 24-year-old will face Mark Selby, who completed a crushing 13-4 win over Stephen Hendry, taking just 10 minutes to secure the single frame he required.
Selby, 27, believes it will be impossible to maintain the form which saw him set a new tournament record with six centuries against the seven-time former champion.
“I don’t think I can play much better than I did there,” Selby said. “I know there’s probably not a chance of maintaining that standard all the way through.”
Hendry said of Selby: “He’s playing the best snooker of anybody here, there’s no doubt about that.”
All four quarter-finals begin today, with morning and evening sessions of Judd Trump versus Graeme Dott and Mark Williams’ clash with Mark Allen.
The afternoon sees the O’Sullivan-Higgins battle commence, and the start of Ding against Selby.