Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan was knocked out of the Welsh Open on Wednesday after a 4-3 loss to home hopeful Matthew Stevens.
O’Sullivan looked erratic throughout the contest, following up some cracking pots with mediocre efforts that must have left his fans somewhat bemused.
The ‘Rocket’ raced into a 2-0 lead and was seemingly content on punishing his opponent’s many mistakes but missed a golden opportunity to snatch the third on the colours to allow Stevens back into the game.
Still, after going 3-2 up with a break of 57 O’Sullivan was within a few balls of victory only to wobble a routine yellow off the spot.
Stevens made a nice clearance on the colours and held his nerve slightly the better in a nervy decider to advance to the last 16.
O’Sullivan’s performance was reminiscent of those prior to the Dr. Steve Peters days so may be of some concern to his army of supporters but it was only one game – in a short format at that – so there’s no need to get overly dramatic about it just yet.
For Stevens it marks the first time in 12 years that the Welshman has gotten one over on O’Sullivan and he’ll be hoping that’ll be the springboard to a rise back up the rankings after what has been a disappointing campaign so far.
The pair’s encounter was one of six that went the distance in round three yesterday as the best-of-sevens produced close contests throughout the day.
World champion Mark Selby and Australian Neil Robertson both avoided O’Sullivan’s fate as they narrowly edged past Peter Ebdon and Jamie Cope respectively, while 2008 winner Ali Carter withstood a spirited fightback from the much-improved Matthew Selt to also prevail with a 4-3 scoreline.
However, other top seeds Mark Allen and Graeme Dott weren’t so fortunate.
The Northern Irishman got downed in a high-quality match with Ben Woollaston while 2006 world champion Dott was defeated by the odd frame by lowly ranked competitor Michael Georgiou – who will make an appearance in the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time in his career on Thursday.
Elsewhere, there wasn’t too much to write home about with the only other eye-catching result appearing in Gary Wilson’s 4-2 victory over Joe Perry.
Scotland’s former champions John Higgins and Stephen Maguire, along with 1993 and 1994 runner-up Alan McManus, all safely negotiated their way into round four.
Home favourite Mark Williams, the only player from Wales to ever win the event with the last of those triumphs coming way back in 1999, beat countryman Jamie Jones 4-2 to set up an intriguing clash with Judd Trump.
Shanghai Masters and International Championship victors Stuart Bingham and Ricky Walden both won to face each other at the next hurdle while Belgian teenager Luca Brecel recorded a 4-0 whitewash win over Oliver Brown to set up a meeting with world no.1 Selby.