Ronnie O’Sullivan leads Mark Selby 10-7 after the opening day of the World Championship final in Sheffield.
There was great expectation prior to the showpiece event between two of snooker’s fiercest rivals but, in truth, most of Sunday’s offering was a drab affair.
Two-time defending champion O’Sullivan raced into a 3-0 lead early on, with the help of a 102 break in the third frame, and it appeared as though the encounter was going to follow a similar pattern to the pair’s Masters final showdown in January.
That day O’Sullivan opened up a 7-1 advantage after the opening session but he could only manage two more frames and had to settle for a 5-3 lead after a tough afternoon.
Despite only boasting a high break of 37, Selby could have made it 4-4 after a monstrous fluke granted him the opportunity of an unlikely steal in the eighth frame but a rushed missed black off the spot, which typified much of his game in both bouts of play, allowed his opponent in for a reprieve.
Selby was left to rue that opportunity as O’Sullivan again collected the first three frames of the evening session to go five clear at 8-3.
Either side of the mid-session interval, the ‘Jester from Leicester’ was able to close the gap by grabbing two frames on the trot, extending his high break to an almost credible 55, but the final was turning into a frustrating watch as both players failed to find their A-game.
After several elongated frames, the ‘Rocket’ finally sparked into life as he appeared to grow wearisome at the stagnated display.
Ruthless breaks of 131 and 87 ensured that the 38 year-old regained his five-frame cushion.
Yet, Selby, often dubbed the master of brinkmanship, took the final two frames of the day to trail by only three overnight, and still in with a realistic chance of capturing his maiden world title.
O’Sullivan will still be the clear favourite but he will be slightly concerned having not been able to maintain his sizable lead, especially considering his 30 year-old challenger has a history of come-from-behind successes.
Nicely poised, then, as the 2014 World Championship enters its 17th and final day on Monday.
Let’s hope the standard of snooker can live up to the promise of a special clash between the duo.