Final may be O'Sullivan's last


Snooker:Ronnie O’Sullivan has put the Crucible on retirement alert again as he powered into the World Championship final and warned he was ready to quit snooker.

The three-time champion will take on Ali Carter tomorrow and on Monday after both men posted convincing semi-final victories.

O’Sullivan crushed Matthew Stevens 17-10 and Carter was a 17-12 winner against Stephen Maguire, to set up an all-English battle for the title.

This tournament has already seen the sport’s most successful player of modern times, Stephen Hendry, call time on his career, and now crowd favourite O’Sullivan says he is seriously considering following the Scot into a life beyond the green baize.

“I don’t intend to stay in the game long, even though I feel in a lot better place,” O’Sullivan said. “I’ve made that decision and this might

I’m not saying it is

be my last time in this tournament.

“I might consider having a good long break, a couple of years off or whatever. I’ve weighed up the pluses and the minuses and I’m quite comfortable with that decision.

“There’s no better way for me than to have a good run at Sheffield and get to the final and if I win it, great, absolute bonus.

“I’ve had a fantastic time and it’s got to come to an end sooner or later. I don’t want to drag it out too long. I always said I’d like to go out on a high and getting to this final has been great. I’d love to go on and win it now.

“I’m not saying it’s a guarantee but I think now is as good a time as ever. I know it might seem crazy but people close to me know what’s going on. I’ve not been afraid to show how I feel. I feel in a good place to be able to say that. I’ve weighed up lots of things.

“Sometimes you’ve got to live life a little bit, maybe do a little bit of Strictly Come Dancing.”

To give O’Sullivan’s remarks a little context, today’s was the latest of many retirement threats to have come from the 36-year-old Essex cueman, the first having been made while he was still a teenager.

What is certain is that O’Sullivan is brimming with desire and belief in Sheffield this year. His work with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters has produced a focused sportsman with impressive drive.

Come the final, Carter will be hoping for a more favourable outcome than he experienced in 2008, having been soundly beaten 18-8 then. It could easily be one-sided again though.

O’Sullivan made a slow start against Stevens this morning before picking up his performance after the mid-session interval, and the consolidation of his overnight six-frame lead meant he returned for the evening session with a handsome 15-9 cushion.

Stevens bit into that large advantage with a 116 break, missing the yellow when a crowd-pleasing total clearance looked inevitable.

The spectators did not need to wait long to see the table cleared in one visit though, with O’Sullivan sinking all the balls in a supreme 130 run to move one frame away from the final.

And the end for Stevens’s fine fortnight was not long in arriving, O’Sullivan having breaks of 35 and 26 in securing another visit to the title match.