Ronnie O'Sullivan has admitted he breathed a "sigh of relief" after overcoming his cue crisis to complete a 10-8 win over old foe John Higgins in the Tour Championship quarter-finals at Celtic Manor in Wales.
The world champion revealed before his meeting with Higgins that he considered withdrawing from the elite event involving the top eight on the World Snooker Tour one-year ranking list because he was unhappy with the condition of his cue.
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"I've had a nightmare with my cue," said O'Sullivan before the match after encountering issues during the WST Pro Series event last week. "I put it in the menders and I got it back. It was no good, but sending it back has made it worse. It's kind of irretrievable now so I need to get myself a new cue.
If I had been given the option to pull out, take my prize money and given (Welsh Open winner) Jordan Brown my place, I would definitely have taken that option because it is better to go to someone who has a good chance of winning.
"As for today, I don't expect too much from my game. I've just got to come here, collect my prize money and try to do something today."
Despite his concerns, O'Sullivan produced a gritty and gallant display laced with moments of his trademark brilliance to reach the last four and a best-of-19 frame semi-final showdown with world number one Judd Trump or Barry Hawkins on Saturday in the chase for a £150,000 first prize.
O'Sullivan's break of 101 in the 16th frame was the 1100th century of his golden 29-year career. He also enjoyed knocks of 112, 69, 56, 72, 69, 72 and 93 and a pot success of 94 percent with his much-maligned cue.
"It was a lot more playable than I thought it was going to be," said O'Sullivan, who enjoyed his first win over Higgins in a two-session match since the 2005 Masters final that he won 10-3.
"That was a sigh of relief if you like. I felt I could at least do something in the balls.
"After this tournament is done, I'll have to send it back and see if I can get it back to how it felt if I can.
It was playable, but it's still not right. It weighs a ton, it feels out of balance, but the noise and striking was alright so I could play most of the important shots.
Higgins won the first frame with a 72, but was never ahead again in the match despite keeping in touch with runs of 101, 74, 73 and 70.
The Scotsman closed to 9-8 behind having lost the first session 5-3, but could not replicate the pristine level of form that saw him thrash O'Sullivan 10-3 in the Players Championship final.
"If he plays well, he beats me every time," said the world number two, who turned professional alongside Higgins in 1992. "I'd have to play out of my skin to stay with him, but if he's below par I've got a chance of beating him.
For me, he's the best all-round player. He had a stinker today and that's why I got through really. I'll take that anyway especially after the drubbing he gave me a couple of weeks ago.
Higgins will turn his attention to preparing himself for the World Championship (LIVE on Eurosport 17 April-3 May) as he chases a fifth Crucible title over four decades.
"It was a strange game to play in, but the best man won," said Higgins, world champion in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011. "I was bashing the ball, I wasn't stroking it.
That's the way I felt throughout the game. Ronnie got a monstrous kick for me to make it 9-8, but the conditions were heavy. It was a weird game.
"It would have been great if I could have replicated the form at the Players, but I think sometimes you have to focus on the positives. I don't think I played that badly.
"I've got a few weeks practice before the worlds and hopefully I can give it a good go there."
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