O’Sullivan launches World Championship bid in style
PUBLISHED: 18:22 02 August 2020 | UPDATED: 18:22 02 August 2020
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Ronnie O’Sullivan banished any fears behind closed doors snooker would hamper his performance as he stormed into an 8-1 lead against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh at the World Championships.
The Rocket has hit the headlines for comments about fans at the Crucible but he let his snooker do the talking in style as two century breaks blew away the world No.20.
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan, who missed out on qualification to the recent Tour Championship after only finishing 18th in the season rankings, was on thrilling form in Sheffield as he stunned his Thai opponent with a rapid start.
O’Sullivan, 44, struck a first frame break of 101 to kick off his pursuit of a sixth world title in style before a second frame 85 left Un-Nooh helpless in the chair.
And he followed that up with another century in frame three as a brilliant 115 treated snooker fans to a mesmerising potting masterclass.
The 36-time ranking event winner continued his run of breaks in the final frame before the mid-session interval with 74, followed by 88 and 76 after the break to trigger murmurs of a rapid whitewash.
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Un-Nooh is widely regarded as the quickest player on the circuit and he did pull one back with a gutsy 69 in frame seven, only for the ruthless Rocket to hit back and finish the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ session with a seven-frame lead.
The Rocket has endured a mixed season on the globetrotting snooker circuit and has failed to progress past the quarter-finals in Sheffield since 2014, where he reached the final before losing to three-time world champion and current world No.7 Mark Selby.
But after an extended lay-off through lockdown – that he branded ‘three of the best’ months of his life – he appears rejuvenated and ready to launch an assault on a sixth Crucible crown.
O’Sullivan resumes his match on Monday morning and if he wraps his game up will tee up a duel with world No.11 Ding Junhui under the storied Crucible lights, who beat Mark King in a 10-9 thriller on Saturday.
The 14-time ranking event winner is still yet to win a world title but after the Chinese player beat O’Sullivan on his way to winning this year’s UK Championship in York, the stage is set for an almighty clash 50 miles south in Sheffield.
John Higgins was another former king of the Crucible who rolled back the years on Sunday as he toppled Matthew Stevens 10-5.
Four-time world champion Higgins entered the session with a 6-3 lead and while two-time Sheffield finalist Stevens made him work, the world No.5 held on to book a second round clash with either David Gilbert or Kurt Maflin.
*Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July -16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.
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