The final of the European Masters will take place inside the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes on Sunday and it will see a legend of the game in Ronnie O’Sullivan looking for yet another title to add to his glittering CV.
He will meet the newcomer on the scene in the form of Fan Zhengyi who will be competing in his first major final and looking to make the sort of impression that his countryman Zhao Xintong has done earlier this season.
There were signs that Fan Zhengyi was warming to his task earlier in the season when he made it through to the quarter final of the German Masters. He ran into a bit of a train in that match against Mark Allen but he clearly hasn’t let that put him off and he has gone again this week and has got his rewards. He is now one match away from a first title in his career so while this is the biggest day of his snooker life, you sense he is learning all the time and more days like this will come regardless of the result.
Fan has beaten some talented opponents this week and he has done it in succession to prove that none of those results were a fluke. Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao and Dave Gilbert have come and gone and then in the semi-final he just outscored Graeme Dott. He won’t be able to outscore O’Sullivan though so he is going to need to take every chance which comes his way if he is to get his hands on the silverware here.
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I don’t think we can say we have seen Ronnie O’Sullivan at his vintage best this week and if he wins the title in this contest he will have done so having not faced any of the top 25 in the world rankings. He can’t do anything about that. His job is just to beat whoever is put in front of him and he has done that nicely enough even though he hasn’t been vintage this week. He will know it is all about winning and he has got the job done.
I do think O’Sullivan has gotten better the longer the week has gone on though. He probably had to because in Tom Ford in the quarter final and Liang Wenbo in the semi-final he has faced his two toughest opponents in the latter end of the tournament. His scoring is beginning to come out and he’ll be confident of winning this final but he won’t need reminding that this time last year he was in a similar position against Jordan Brown in the Welsh Open final and lost it.
Head to head
The head to head between these two is quite a simple one as it will be the first time they will have met in competitive action.
This isn’t an easy final to bet on because much like that Welsh Open final last year you sense Ronnie O’Sullivan will either win with a fair bit in hand because Fan Zhengyi has struggled with the occasion, or he loses. If you can see the latter happening then the Chinese player is a big price at 11/2 but the big difference between the two finals is that O’Sullivan has won a title in the meantime and of course there are fans back in arenas which makes him a much more daunting prospect.
I fancy Fan will give a fair account of himself but I’m not convinced he gets all that close to O’Sullivan in this final but he’s playing well enough to be respected. If the Chinese player is to get any joy out of O’Sullivan then he’ll need to score well so over 10.5 50+ breaks could be the way to play this final. O’Sullivan made six of them in his semi-final win on Saturday evening and Fan made four of them and has been in good touch all week. If this is 9-4 or 9-5 or in that ballpark we should see enough breaks to cover this line.
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