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Ronnie O’Sullivan admitted he is “not the player he was” despite reaching the Northern Ireland Open semi-finals with an impressive comeback win over Ding Junhui.

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The Rocket was staring at a two-frame deficit in Milton Keynes, which is playing host to the tournament due to Covid-19 restrictions, but reeled off five frames on the spin to progress.

O’Sullivan said he “felt useless” after watching Ding’s fast start, conceding that age had finally caught up with him along with fellow Class of '92 players John Higgins and Mark Williams.

O'Sullivan: ‘I felt useless, I felt embarrassed’

“My potting’s not that good. I’m just not as good as I was,” O’Sullivan said, when asked why he had refused a long pot in the fourth frame.

“My long game used to be much better. I miss too many balls. Higgins is the same, Williams is the same. It’s just a natural progression as you get a bit older.

“So there’s no point going for it if you’re going to let him in amongst the balls. I might as well just smash into them and say, ‘here you are, clear up’.

“I used to be ‘the potter’. Now I wouldn’t even make the top 50 of potters on the tour.”

O'Sullivan completes win over Ding to book semi-final spot

O’Sullivan, the current world champion, is on a collision course with Judd Trump, who bettered him in the 2018 and 2019 finals in Belfast.

But the 44-year-old was keen to salute the efforts of Ding, who at one stage looked set to sweep to a comfortable win after exploding out of the blocks.

“His positional play was unbelievable with the first two breaks in the two frames. I thought ‘he’s going to punt me 5-0 here’,” said O’Sullivan.

“He wasn’t out of position once. You wonder why he hasn’t won numerous world titles.

“I literally felt useless out there, I felt embarrassed because I thought my position was OK, but compared to him it was amateur. You start to feel a bit embarrassed out there because you can’t play to the level he was playing at.

“And then he started to miss a few and I dragged him down to my level.”

O’Sullivan will next face Ali Carter in the last four, a rematch of their clash at the 2018 World Snooker Championship – the scene of their infamous ‘shoulder barge’.

Relive O’Sullivan and Carter’s shoulder barge spat at 2018 World Snooker Championship

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