There were no shocks as the last 16 of the UK Championship got under way at the Barbican Centre on Wednesday.
Four players seeded inside the top 16 in the world easily thwarted the challenges of their lower ranked opposition as the venue in York reverted to a more standard two-table set-up.
Ronnie O’Sullivan had his hardest workout of the tournament so far but still only lost a couple of frames in a 6-2 victory over former champion Matthew Stevens.
Stevens didn’t do very much wrong in the opening five frames and could have in fact led by that point, but one or two costly mistakes were punished by the ‘Rocket’, who established a 4-1 cushion.
By then it was almost impossible to see the Welshman forge any sort of a comeback and, even though O’Sullivan suffered a minor lapse in concentration towards the end, it was another routine triumph for the five-time champion.
What was perhaps more compelling was O’Sullivan’s post-match interview live in the BBC studio with Hazel Irvine, Steve Davis and Ken Doherty.
The 40 year-old had already made headlines this week for suggesting that snooker is being treated like a “car-boot sale” by the media in particular, comments which infuriated World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn.
O’Sullivan defended his stance in which he believes snooker is going in the wrong direction with 128 players on the Main Tour too many to cater for, and that the big sponsors and media want to see more of the marquee names in action – especially towards the end of events.
In many ways he has a point, certainly in that the 128 flat draw, whereby every player enters a competition in the first round, is becoming more and more redundant.
However, without a support tour in place for budding professionals – like the satellite tours provided in the likes of tennis, golf and even darts – it is a ridiculously naive wish to slash the numbers competing on the circuit.
Meanwhile, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy and Marco Fu all recorded comfortable victories of their own as well.
Selby compiled a brace of centuries as he romped to a 6-1 defeat of Zhang Anda, while Murphy needed just one additional frame in overcoming another Chinese in Zhou Yuelong.
Murphy, never short of an opinion himself and who recently said of O’Sullivan that he “should stick to playing snooker”, constructed breaks of 79, 96, 110, 80 and 79 in denying the 18 year-old a maiden ranking event quarter-final appearance.
Fu, last but definitely not least, had the easiest time of the lot as he concluded Oliver Lines’ excellent run with a 6-0 thrashing of the 21 year-old.
On Thursday, the fourth round ends with the last eight line-up set to be confirmed.
John Higgins and Mark Allen clash in arguably the tie of the round, while Luca Brecel meets 2004 champion Stephen Maguire in an equally intriguing affair.
The other two contests see Mark Williams face Liam Highfield and David Gilbert entertain Jamie Jones.
Categories: Snooker News