Ronnie O’Sullivan has reached the second round of the World Championship after a 10-4 victory over Robin Hull on the opening day at the Crucible.
The two-time defending champion was made to work harder than the scoreline would suggest, though, as Hull fought well but ultimately was left to rue a succession of missed opportunities.
The Finn was making his first appearance in Sheffield in a dozen years after making it through all four qualifying rounds last week.
Hull didn’t seem out-of-place as his attacking style of play took the game to O’Sullivan but he missed balls at crucial times and failed to capitalise on the rare mistakes that his accomplished opponent made.
For the ‘Rocket’, it was a perfect start to his defence as he bids to capture the trophy for a third year on the trot and sixth time in total.
The 38 year-old will undoubtedly be hoping to raise his game further as the tournament progresses but he was sharp enough to come through a tough enough test relatively comfortably.
Indeed, breaks of 124, 69, 81, 60, 90 and 54 showed that his scoring power was as smooth as ever.
It would be understandable for one to assume that O’Sullivan will at least reach the quarter-final with either Joe Perry or Jamie Burnett his next challenger, but he will have to keep his head focused to avoid any unnecessary mishaps.
O’Sullivan did well today as he ensured that Hull was punished for the majority of routine mistakes he made.
There were several occasions where 39 year-old Hull could have kept the game tighter but the odd shot here and there, perhaps due to his lack of experience on the big stage, ultimately let him down.
In that sense, O’Sullivan’s progression will appear as if it was routine but it was definitely not the destruction some were expecting as the top and bottom seed did battle.
O’Sullivan has the advantage now of being able to rest easy until Thursday evening, when he will feel his tournament really gets into full swing.
Elsewhere on day one, Ireland’s Ken Doherty came back from 3-0 down to trail by only one frame overnight against Stuart Bingham at 5-4.
Both players had an obscene amount of chances throughout and the standard was not of the highest but the 1997 world champion will be happy to have kept it tight having gone so far behind so quickly.
Meanwhile, Welshman Ryan Day dominated his opening session with Stephen Maguire to lead the Scot 6-3 while Jamie Cope won the last three frames of his match with Shaun Murphy to take a 5-4 advantage into Sunday.
Day and Cope have been two players who have perhaps failed to live up to the early promise in their careers.
Both reached a flurry of five ranking event finals between 2006 and 2008 but could not build on it to achieve greater success.
However, the duo have shown signs of late of a return in form and both Maguire and Murphy will be desperately hoping they don’t become early high-profile casualties.
In Saturday’s other contest, two-time runner-up Ali Carter and debutant Xiao Guodong are 4-4 at the time of writing. (Ended 5-4 to Carter)
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