Ronnie O’Sullivan leads Shaun Murphy 6-2 after the first session of their eagerly anticipated second round World Championship clash.
The Crucible was abuzz with excitement ahead of the grudge match between the pair, but the opening exchanges proved to be rather one sided as O’Sullivan dominated the 2005 world champion with a clinical display.
Murphy has never been shy in voicing his opinions, whether it be about the “Rocket” or any other matter within the game, but was arguably foolish to stoke an already well lit and controversial fire when he chimed in with his opinions about the fiasco between O’Sullivan and the sport’s authorities in the days leading up to this fixture.
The latter wouldn’t have required any more motivation to stamp his own authority on the contest, and that’s exactly what he did, as the focused 41 year-old reeled off five breaks of 74 or above in establishing a comprehensive early cushion.
Three years ago in Sheffield, O’Sullivan hammered Murphy 13-3 with a session to spare and thoughts immediately turned to a potential repeat if play continues in a similar fashion on Friday.
O’Sullivan didn’t look like a player distracted by all the nonsense surrounding his war of words with the governing body, and lack thereof with the media.
Indeed, the five-time world champion appeared even more determined to silence the doubters, which could be an ominous sign for the majority of the remaining competitors left in the draw.
There is plenty of time for Murphy to recover but he’ll have to immediately get on the front foot in the second session if he has any chance of launching a comeback.
Meanwhile, Kyren Wilson opened up a 5-3 lead over Stuart Bingham but will be disappointed to not be ahead by a greater margin.
Wilson took advantage of a lacklustre opening from his opponent to surge 5-0 in front despite not playing particularly well himself.
At this point, there would have been concerns for Bingham that he may effectively lose the tie in the first session but he crucially won the last three frames to reduce the deficit to only two frames.
The 2015 world champion will be mightily relieved and Wilson’s inability to forge ahead could come back to haunt him later in the encounter.
Elsewhere, the last 32 came to a conclusion with Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins completing their routine triumphs over Noppon Saengkham and Tom Ford respectively.
Robertson overcame the Thai 10-4 while Hawkins went one better with a 10-3 defeat of fellow Englishman Ford.
Hawkins has risen to third favourite with the bookies to lift the title following the exit of Judd Trump, with the bottom quarter of the draw seemingly now more in favour of the World Grand Prix champion.
The 2013 Crucible runner-up meets Graeme Dott next while Robertson takes on Marco Fu.