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Ronnie O'Sullivan is eyeing a record-extending fourth Champion of Champions title
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Champion of Champions Semi-finals Preview: Ronnie O'Sullivan steaming towards trophy

Ronnie O'Sullivan continues to be his biggest critic even after storming into the Champion of Champions semi-finals.

"I played alright, I think," was the Rocket's verdict of his 6-1 hammering of Chinese star Zhao Zintong.

That has set him up for a semi-final showdown with another Chinese ace, the unseeded Fan Zhengyi, with O'Sullivan 1/8 to come through and set up a final tussle with either Judd Trump or Mark Selby.

O'Sullivan wary of Fan after European defeat

WhatRonnie O'Sullivan v Fan Zhengyi, Champion of Champions semi-final
WhereBolton Whites Hotel, Bolton
When19:00, Saturday 5th November, 2022
How to watchITV4
OddsRonnie O'Sullivan 1/8, Fan Zhengyi 5/1

O'Sullivan is rarely a happy man at the table – yet those privileged to watch him play continue to leave arenas with smiles on their faces.

They did after The Rocket had beaten Robert Milkins 4-2 in round one of the 16-player invitational.

And they did so again after his 6-1 demolition of Zhao Zintong, after which O'Sullivan tipped Zhao to be a future world champion while pretty much everyone else was tipping the Rocket to land an eighth world title long before his 25-year-old victim nabs his first.

O'Sullivan is 4/1 to be world champ next spring, Zhao 18/1, and even those odds probably don't amply reflect the gulf between them.

The fact is that if O'Sullivan is firing (and he doesn't even have to be feeling particularly good, clearly) then he's too good for most.

That doesn't mean he can't be beaten, of course he can. Indeed, Fan himself beat the Englishman in the final of the European Masters in February.

The 21-year-old cat lover got his claws into O'Sullivan from the off, was never headed, and showed remarkable nerve and cool to reel off a tournament-winning break of 92 in the deciding frame to clinch a 10-9 success.

It's their only ever meeting in a major tournament and that result alone has to give the 5/1 outsider some self-belief.

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Fan feeling fine after Robbo result

And Fan has to be confident anyway given his form in Bolton.

Yet he arrived in the north-west with nothing to suggest good things were coming his way. He began his defence of the European Masters – (moved to August this season) – by losing 5-1 to Michael Judge in a qualifier.

He was then clubbed 4-0 by Jamie Clarke in his British Open qualifier before at least making the main draw of the Northern Ireland Open only to lose in round one to Neil Robertson 4-2.

So he'd have good grounds to be apprehensive taking on Robertson again in round one of the Champion of Champions, only this time he turned the tables on the Australian.

Again, under pressure this time at 3-2 down, Fan produced runs of 94 and 98 to seal a 4-3 win and Robertson admitted his young opponent had played "brilliant".

Fan was involved in another last-frame thriller in round two against Ryan Day, a match that swung both ways, with the Chinese youngster nicking it 6-5 to set up his mouthwatering clash with O'Sullivan.

Fan hit two big hundreds in his match, O'Sullivan hitting one against Milkins and two against Zhao.

Fan is 11/8 for over 0.5 centuries which might be a tempter given the freedom with which he is playing when he gets to the table. And he doesn't look like he is going to be blown away.

Trump means business in title

Defending champion Trump has looked as good as anyone so far as he prepares for his heavyweight semi-final clash with Selby.

Trump is 8/13 and the formbook says the three-time finalist will have Selby's measure.

The top seed looked good enough beating Luka Brecel 4-2 in round one and then put on the afterburner against in-form Mark Allen, racing to a 6-1 triumph.

For Selby, this isn't a favourite tournament. He has never even reached the final and with a 13/10 quote by his name, he isn't expected to be bucking that trend.

But there are signs that the former world No.1 is beginning to click. He walloped Lee Walker 4-0 in his opener though in all honesty that was to be expected.

He knew he would have to improve against John Higgins in the last eight and he absolutely did, producing some trademark match snooker against one of the meanest in the business and running out a 6-4 winner.

Selby opened up with a 140 break, added another 105 and his temperament was excellent.

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