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UK Snooker Championship: Ronnie O'Sullivan downbeat despite beating Robert Milkins to reach quarter finals

Ronnie O'Sullivan was downbeat despite beating Robert Milkins 6-5 to reach the quarter-finals of the UK Championship; O'Sullivan will face Zhou Yuelong in the last eight in York after the Chinese player beat John Higgins 6-3

Ronnie O'Sullivan during victory over Robert Milkins
Image: Ronnie O'Sullivan was critical of his performance despite advancing to the last eight

Ronnie O'Sullivan has warned he will continue "stinking out gaffs" after he limped into the quarter-finals of the UK Snooker Championship with a 6-5 win over Robert Milkins in York.

O'Sullivan, who is playing in trainers due to suffering from the heel injury plantar fasciitis, made his frustration clear as he almost blew a 5-3 lead before rallying to earn a last-eight slot against Zhou Yuelong.

"I don't understand how this game works," shrugged O'Sullivan. "I gave up a long time ago. I just keep turning up and stinking out gaffs. I stunk it out today [Thursday] and I'll stink it out tomorrow [Friday]. You'll have to get a mask to watch me play."

Despite hitting a 142 in frame five, O'Sullivan, who is aiming for a record eighth UK crown, was far from his best, and expressed his irritation after serving up one of three glorious opportunities for Milkins in the decider by dropping his cue onto the table.

Ronnie O'Sullivan during UK Championship victory over Robert Milkins
Image: O'Sullivan won a deciding frame to beat Robert Milkins

But Milkins, whose solitary win over O'Sullivan in 11 previous attempts had come at the single-frame Shoot-Out in 2002, failed to capitalise, missing a pink then a simple red to middle, before finally dangling a red over the bottom pocket that effectively sealed his fate.

The win extended O'Sullivan's stay in the city for at least one more day, ring-fencing enough ranking points to give him hope of preserving his status prior to the festive period, when he intends to skip the Scottish Open then jet off for a Christmas Day exhibition in Macau.

"I just don't want it bad enough any more," added O'Sullivan. "I'm having to dig deep. When I was younger I didn't have to dig deep, I was so hungry, and now I'm just thinking I don't really care.

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"It's nice if I get through but I don't actually want to work that hard. That's why I like doing my exhibitions, my own shows in China. It's still competitive but it doesn't matter if you win or lose, you can have a drink after and a bite to eat.

"Competitive sport is hard, it's not just about how good you are but how much you want it. I still want to play, I still like the lifestyle and the travelling. But I'm not going to kill myself out there, it's not worth it."

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O'Sullivan's judgement was off from the start, allowing Milkins, whose career has been revitalised since his first ranking title win at the Welsh Open in February which sent him into the world's top 16 for the first time, to capitalise and establish a 2-0 lead.

It should have got even better for Milkins, who had a glorious chance to go 3-0 in front before a simple missed red allowed O'Sullivan to produce a quickfire response of 86, followed by a 53 in the fourth frame which took him into the interval level at 2-2.

A brilliant 142 total clearance sent O'Sullivan in front for the first time, and another Milkins error in the next, when he broken down on a black on 52, allowed O'Sullivan to sweep up to go 4-2 in front.

The game's momentum continued to swing, as Milkins reduced the deficit with a coolly-dispatched 91, then O'Sullivan responded with an 83 to edge one frame from victory.

Milkins hit back again, with a superb 120 before O'Sullivan missed a simple missed blue in the next, showing more frustration with a rash attempt to escape from a snooker that served up his opponent with the simplest of chances to pull level.

Zhou Yuelong during victory over John Higgins at UK Championship
Image: Zhou Yuelong beat John Higgins to set up a quarter-final meeting with O'Sullivan

Milkins could hardly have hoped for a better chance to end his career-long drought over multi-frame matches, but the nerves clearly got the better of him, and he was inevitably made to pay for his misses as O'Sullivan rallied to clinch a thoroughly underwhelming win.

John Higgins' hopes of setting up another showdown with his long-time rival were dashed when he fell 6-3 to Zhou in another erratic affair, sending the Chinese player into the quarter-finals for only the second time in his career.

Zhou was whitewashed in both previous meetings with O'Sullivan in York, in 2018 and in last year's last 16, but said: "I have beaten some good players this week and it has given me confidence that this time against Ronnie it will be different."

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