So much for it not being easy.

Despite German Masters qualifying and the internet-streamed Championship League being his only competitive appearances since April, Ronnie O'Sullivan is into the final of the Masters.

And O'Sullivan is poised to win the Triple Crown event for the sixth time - and join Stephen Hendry as the tournament's most successful player - when he faces Barry Hawkins at Ally Pally on Sunday.

The Rocket has improved throughout the week, edging out Mark Williams in a final-frame shootout in round one before recording comfortable 6-3 wins over world No. 1 Mark Selby and Crucible champion Stuart Bingham.

O'Sullivan's big-match expertise and solid form should be decisive and he is 1/4 to triumph in London.

But Hawkins has been terrific, too, especially considering he had never previously won a single match at the 16-man event.

The Hawk achieved impressive 6-3 and 6-2 wins over Joe Perry and Mark Allen - the player who dumped out defending champion Sean Murphy - before ousting Judd Trump in the semis on Saturday.

That win over Neil Robertson's conqueror Trump was exceptional, with the 36-year-old making three centuries - including a 130 and 128 - to triumph 6-4.

But defeating the Rocket remains the greatest challenge in snooker, particularly for a player whose best result in a Triple Crown event is a runner-up finish at the 2013 World Championship.

Hawkins lost that Crucible contest to - who else? - O'Sullivan and his best chance of victory in Sunday's best-of-19-frame contest is if he leads from the front.

O'Sullivan never trailed against Selby and won the first five frames against Bingham - pretty much an unassailable position for a champion who has won so prolifically.

However, despite reaching his 10th Masters final with relative ease, the 40-year-old explained more than once how his recent back injury is affecting his allignment and left him willing - as opposed to feeling - his way around the table.

If Hawkins starts quickly and is able to expose that possible vulnerablity - it is not uncommon for O'Sullivan to become preoccupied and disengaged during matches - then he has a chance of triumphing and is 3/1 to do so.

Realistically, though, the Rocket should overcome a player he has beaten nine out of 10 times - his only loss was their first meeting in 2002 - and seal the latest glorious comeback of his remarkable career.  

The Masters betting

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