By Mark Staniforth, PA
Ronnie O’Sullivan may be closing in on more snooker history moment in York, but the 45-year-old continues to give the distinct impression he would rather be anywhere else than on the cusp of a record eighth UK snooker title.
After reeling off the last four frames to sink Noppon Saengkham 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals, O’Sullivan insisted he had no interest in his performance, and shrugged off the prospect of claiming the crown on his 46th birthday on Sunday.
O’Sullivan insisted: “I don’t care – if I win it, great, and if I don’t, it will have no impact on my life and what I do. If anything I’d rather be sitting with Jimmy (White), having a laugh.
Seven-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan books his place in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo UK Championship.
The Rocket clicked into gear from 3-2 down, reeling off the next four frames for a 6-3 win over Noppon Saengkham.
Sealed with a century 🔥 #CazooUKChampionship @CazooUK pic.twitter.com/NwV1Mr2tpv
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) December 1, 2021
“I really don’t celebrate birthdays to be honest. I don’t get excited by that either. I get excited by my work and some little projects I’m working on.”
Even a break of 120 to wrap up a tight contest in which he had looked out-of-sorts in the early stages failed to kindle any evident enthusiasm in O’Sullivan, who will return for his last eight match on Friday.
“I’m just happy to be through and still in the tournament,” added O’Sullivan. “It is what it is out there. I really haven’t got a clue how it all works.
“I don’t care, I really have no interest. I’m going to have a couple of Guinnesses tonight and a bit of mulled wine and some nice food.”
O’Sullivan fell behind three times in the early stages and looked set for a battle with Saengkham who sunk an outrageous long red before a 57 clearance wiped out a significant O’Sullivan advantage and nudged him into a 3-2 lead.
But the Thai missed a series of good chances to extend his lead to 4-2 and O’Sullivan took full advantage, reeling off the next four frames, which also included a break of 74, to book his place in the last eight.
A slew of big-name departures have left O’Sullivan as the overwhelming favourite to extend his own record to eight titles, but he typically dismissed the expectations ahead of a potential last eight clash with Kyren Wilson.
“I don’t feel like I have a rival,” added O’Sullivan. “I feel like I’m sitting on the sidelines watching everything that’s going on, and I’ve got a great front row seat.”
China’s Zhao Xintong joined O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals after holding firm to claim a 6-4 win over veteran Peter Lines.
The 51-year-old recovered from 4-1 down to haul the tie back level before Zhao, rated by many as one of the hottest prospects in the sport, produced breaks of 92 and 67 to seal his place in the last eight.