'Rocket' considering retirement
Ronnie O'Sullivan put the Crucible on retirement alert again as he powered into the World Championship final and warned he was ready to quit.
The three-time champion will take on Ali Carter on Sunday 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' fine fortnight was not long in arriving, O'Sullivan having breaks of 35 and 26 in securing another visit to the title match.
Essex cueman Carter was suffering so badly with Crohn's disease, the bowel condition he was diagnosed with nine years ago, that he considered walking away from the snooker tour at one stage this season.
The World Championship would have been his last tournament but instead it could be the making of him.
A no-wheat, no-dairy diet has worked wonders, but he believes a mind-boggling intake of carrot juice has been just as significant a factor behind his new-found good health.
The 32-year-old turned a 14-10 overnight lead into a 17-12 triumph over Maguire, for whom the match appeared to be a miserable experience from start to finish.
"Organic carrot juice is where it's at. All the other players are missing a trick. It's nicer than you think it would be," Carter said.
"I'm having 10 bags a day. You think I'm joking - go into my dressing room. Peter Ebdon brought the juicer.
"It's supposed to improve your eyesight. You could turn the light out and I'd still be able to play."
Ebdon's role in the Carter camp has been noted already at this tournament, notably when second-round victim Judd Trump said he found it strange that the 2002 world champion was present and clearly favouring his long-time friend.
The man nicknamed 'The Force' is renowned for his mental strength, and has passed on priceless tactical and mental advice to Carter behind the scenes in Sheffield.
Carter said: "He's helped me massively.
"I can't really tell you the trade secrets, but we're working on a few things.
"Nothing with my technique, just things in the mind really that I fell down on before."
When Maguire lost a dramatic opening frame of the fourth session today his hopes effectively were over.
Carter, with a 21-point lead, was put in a clever snooker behind the black and failed with six attempts to escape.
After the sixth miss, referee Leo Scullion elected not to call a miss. Carter had been a whisker away from hitting the red, so Scullion's judgement meant his fellow Glaswegian, by that stage three points ahead, had to play from where the white finished.
Carter went on to win the frame and Maguire presented no complaints about Scullion's decision, saying: "I don't think it's a bad call, I don't think it's a good call.
"He thought it was a hard snooker. Leo is a top ref and a good friend, so fair play. It was a brave call to make."
Maguire regretted the way he played, saying: "That's a bad result. I don't really know how to take that one.
"I took a lot of hits in that match too, a lot of close frames.
"I felt like a punchbag at some stages."
He gives Carter little chance against O'Sullivan, saying: "Over the course of the final, Ronnie isn't going to let him off the hook the way I did and I think that will make the difference."
On hearing of O'Sullivan's retirement warning, Stevens tonight said: "I hope he does (retire).
"I can't see him doing it, but you never know with Ronnie. If he did retire as world champion, what a perfect way to do it.
"But I think he loves the game too much - he loves the buzz out there, no matter what he says.
"But if he does go, then it's good for all the other players."