Ronnie O’Sullivan is into the semi-finals of the Champion of Champions after emerging through his opening two tests in Coventry on Monday.
The two-time champion extended his unbeaten run at the Ricoh Arena with victories over Robin Hull and Martin Gould.
O’Sullivan was triumphant in this lucrative invitational in each of the first two years the event was staged in 2013 and 2014, but chose to skip last year’s edition.
Today’s double brings the 40 year-old’s unbeaten tally in the tournament to ten matches.
Despite dropping only four frames across both encounters, the ‘Rocket’ did show signs of the lack of consistency which has affected his patchy form so far this campaign.
Although O’Sullivan reached the final of the European Masters where he was narrowly denied the title in a decider by Judd Trump, the former world no.1 has suffered unexpected defeats to Chris Wakelin and twice at the hands of Michael Holt during this term.
O’Sullivan’s temperament on day one appeared to be up and down, highlighted in his post-match interview when he quipped that he would have preferred to do studio work this week and wouldn’t have even cared if he had went out.
Yet, the five-time world champion arguably benefited from a kind draw in which his opponents failed to produce the necessary quality to trouble him enough.
Hull did well to pull back from 2-0 down to 2-2 but faltered once in contention, with O’Sullivan eventually sealing a 4-2 triumph.
Then Gould, who prevailed in a lengthy last 16 battle with Mark Davis 4-3, couldn’t build up any momentum and ultimately lost a telling seventh frame.
The German Masters champion seemed set to reduce his arrears to 3-4 with a 62 but O’Sullivan responded with the same break before sinking a long black for a 5-2 advantage.
The latter finally produced more like his A-game in the next frame with a 121 total clearance advancing him to Friday’s last four.
Even though O’Sullivan scored heavily when in among the balls, he still made too many mistakes for his liking and would probably have been punished had it been one of the more marquee names.
Those kinds of challenges perhaps await come the weekend’s play but by then, of course, O’Sullivan will feel like he only has to win a couple of matches to land a third title in Coventry and the £100,000 winner’s cheque.
Despite his inconsistencies, everyone knows O’Sullivan’s ability to turn on the style – especially when a major trophy is within his grasp.
Tomorrow, the first semi-finalist from the top half of the draw will be determined.
Neil Robertson and Stuart Bingham do battle before an equally heavyweight affair between Ding Junhui and Ali Carter.
The two winners will meet each other on Tuesday evening for a last four berth.