Mark Selby fired up for Ronnie O’Sullivan showdown at Players Championship

The Torturer is back!

Mark Selby fired up for Ronnie O’Sullivan showdown at Players Championship
Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan
Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan will meet once again on Thursday night (Pictures: Getty)

Mark Selby cannot wait to get stuck into his clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Players Championship quarter-finals, saying he cherishes every meeting with the Rocket.

Selby bounced back from a slow start to beat Barry Hawkins 6-3 in his opening contest in Telford, looking very strong as he made breaks of 75, 73, 67, 66 and 56 to win five of the last six frames.

O’Sullivan booked his spot in the last eight by comfortably beating Zhou Yuelong 6-2 on Tuesday and now the two old foes meet in a blockbuster quarter-final on Thursday night.

The pair have not met that much in recent years, just once this season so far, with that game in the Shanghai Masters their only clash in any competition since 2021.

Selby has not had his best season so far, but he knows that if he can keep up the form he showed as he downed Hawkins, he will be a problem for anyone.

‘It gets easier next game doesn’t it? I’ve got Ronnie!’ Selby joked on ITV. ‘No, I cherish every game I play against Ronnie so I’m really looking forward to that.

‘If I play like I did after the interval with that authority and that confidence then I’ve got a chance.’

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2023 - Day Sixteen
Selby is aiming to be just the third player to beat O’Sullivan this season (Picture: Getty Images)

O’Sullivan has won four tournaments so far this season with Selby yet to get his hands on any silverware, but he says that the brilliance of the Rocket actually makes match preparation easier.

‘You know what you’re going to get with Ronnie, he very rarely plays to a bad level,’ said the 40-year-old. ‘He’s either very good or unplayable, that makes your job a lot easier going into the match because you know you have to turn up and if you don’t you’re going home.’

On the suggestion that O’Sullivan is no fan of playing Selby, the Jester recalled an old nickname the Rocket gave him earlier in his career.

‘The Torturer!’ Selby said. ‘Yeah [we’ve played] in big finals. He’s given me a good hiding in a lot of them and I’ve beat him in some of them as well so I’m really looking forward to it.’

The two have met in the biggest matches in the sport, contesting finals of all three Triple Crown events, with Selby beating O’Sullivan in all three, while the Rocket has only downed the Jester in a Masters final.

Selby spoke recently about dealing with the aura that the world number one possesses, saying that it takes a firm belief in your own abilities.

‘Don’t get me wrong, no one beats him all the while, but if you go into a match believing you can win then you’ve got half a chance rather than thinking you’ve not got a chance at all,’ he told Metro.co.uk.

‘I just know that if I’m playing as good as I can play, I believe in my own ability, I can win. Whenever I play Ronnie I don’t think I can’t win. I know it’s going to be a tough game but I believe in myself that I can. Whether I will or not is a different thing.

‘Obviously he’s beat me more times than I’ve beat him, but it doesn’t mean to say I don’t believe I can win. It’s pointless going out there if you think like that.’

It has proved to be an extremely difficult task to beat the Rocket this season, with just two men managing it.

Zhang Anda has beaten O’Sullivan twice, with Lyu Haotian the other man to conquer the world number one.

Players Championship quarter-finals

Wednesday 21 February

7pm
Judd Trump vs Ali Carter

Thursday 22 February

1pm
Mark Allen vs Gary Wilson
7pm
Mark Selby vs Ronnie O’Sullivan

Friday 23 February

1pm
Zhang Anda vs John Higgins

MORE : Mark Selby on dealing with the aura of Ronnie O’Sullivan: ‘I believe in myself’

MORE : Mark Selby speaks out on cancer nightmare of wife, Vikki, and close friend

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