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Ronnie Up and Running in Chengdu

Pre-tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan is into the last 32 of the International Championship after a come-from-behind victory over Ben Woollaston in Chengdu.

Photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

The ‘Rocket’ started slowly and found himself 3-1 down at the mid-session interval but he fought back strongly to win the contest 6-4.

After reducing the deficit to one at 3-2 with a sublime 124 century, the encounter perhaps hinged on the sixth frame when O’Sullivan cleared the colours to force a re-spotted black, which he potted to level the scores.

The 38 year-old’s confidence was riding high, in complete contrast to how he began, and speedy runs of 87 and 97 brought him to the brink of victory.

An unexpected missed pink in the subsequent frame allowed his fellow Englishman in for a reprieve but O’Sullivan sealed victory in the 10th frame to set up a second round clash with Scotland’s Anthony McGill.

A lot of people were suggesting before the event commenced that O’Sullivan would be about to pull his usual disinterested act in China and the opening four frames didn’t do much to quell that theory.

But for me it was always unlikely that the five-time world champion was going to lie down easily as this competition suits him to a tee.

The International Championship is well on its way to becoming the fourth major and O’Sullivan was always going to prefer the longer format and the lucrative reward for success – with £125,000 on offer for the winner next Sunday.

As he grows into the tournament, and with primary rivals Mark Selby and Ding Junhui already out having failed to get past the qualifying round in September, O’Sullivan is rightly considered as the number one candidate for glory.

Another of his biggest foes down through the years has been John Higgins and O’Sullivan was due to meet the four-time world champion in the last 16 but the Scot was badly beaten by China’s own Li Hang 6-1.

Countryman Graeme Dott, the 2006 Crucible conqueror, suffered a similar fate as he also went down 6-1 to Craig Steadman.

Aside from that, there weren’t too many shocks in the first day of action in the Far East.

Two-time ranking event champion Barry Hawkins was pushed very hard by legend Jimmy White, whose form has turned around of late with some morale-boosting victories, but eventually got over the winning line with a 6-4 victory.

In a tense affair, both players missed a whole host of opportunities to get on top and White will be rueing the fact that he was unable to force a deciding frame – Hawkins eventually taking the nervy 10th on the final black.

Welshmen Mark Williams, Ryan Day and Michael White all won and are through to the second round but another in Jamie Jones fell by the wayside in the dreaded wildcard round as he went down to giant-killer Zhao Xintong.

This is the third ranking event this season that the amateur has been invited into the wildcard round and the third time he has beaten the professional forced to play him, making a complete mockery of what is an utterly out-of-date system for Chinese tournaments.

Northern Ireland’s Joe Swail, along with Mitchell Mann and man of the moment Oliver Lines had no such problems, though, and safely ensured their place in the first round proper.

Meanwhile, the in-form Mark Allen whitewashed Nigel Bond 6-0 and he’ll face Martin Gould following a 6-4 triumph over talented youngster Joel Walker.

Finally, Stuart Bingham, hunting for a hat-trick of titles in China, and Mark Davis enjoyed wins over Robbie Williams and Dechawat Poomjaeng respectively.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.