Ronnie O’Sullivan continued his quest for a record-equalling fifth ranking event in a season with another dominant display to reach the third round of the Welsh Open on Wednesday.
The Englishman, playing his first match since capturing the World Grand Prix title on Sunday, rarely looked troubled despite his opponent Graeme Dott valiantly putting it up to him.
Dott had first crack in almost every frame, knocking in breaks of 64 and 50, but O’Sullivan responded each time and eventually advanced with a comfortable 4-0 win.
O’Sullivan, 42, later said in his post-match interview that he thinks he can still win trophies into his fifties and it’s hard to argue, especially given the kind of form that he has produced in the last six months.
While the “Rocket” coasted into the last 32, it was a day to forget for a lot of the seeds after one marquee name after another fell at the second hurdle.
Ding Junhui’s run to the final in Preston a few days ago seemed to be the exception that proved the rule this term as his lacklustre form returned in a drab 4-1 defeat to Liam Highfield while Judd Trump was dumped out in similar circumstances by Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham.
2007 champion Neil Robertson was hardly playing badly as he compiled a hat-trick of century breaks against Ian Burns, but the Melbourne man still managed to fall short in a 4-3 loss as his challenger also knocked in runs of 106, 85, and 75 in a high-scoring affair.
Meanwhile, world number one Mark Selby’s disappointing campaign continued with a scrappy 4-3 reverse against Liang Wenbo, the same narrow margin in which Ali Carter and Anthony McGill exited at the hands of Nigel Bond and Ben Woollaston respectively.
Luca Brecel, who has been struggling with cue issues for the last few tournaments, was another notable name who failed to escape the last 64, with veteran Mike Dunn accounting for the young Belgian.
There were some highlights for the more prominent names, though, ensuring that O’Sullivan might not have it all his own way in the last Home Nations series event of the season.
Defending champion Stuart Bingham emerged from a tricky tie with local amateur Jackson Page 4-2 while home favourite Mark Williams, a winner of three tournaments since the summer, compiled breaks of 106, 89, 79, and 75 in a high-quality 4-3 triumph against Aditya Mehta.
Williams is a two-time winner of the Welsh Open but hasn’t tasted success in the competition in an incredible 19 years.
Four-time champion John Higgins inflicted serious damage on Stephen Maguire’s top 16 ambitions with a 4-1 glory over his countryman while Mark Allen progressed with the same scoreline against Soheil Vahedi.
Former ranking event winners Barry Hawkins, Kyren Wilson, Martin Gould, Matthew Stevens, Peter Ebdon, and James Wattana are all still in the hunt – the latter courtesy of a 4-2 success over Michael Holt.
Among the others to move forward were 18 year-old Yan Bingtao and his fellow Chinese Xu Si, who came from behind to beat Snooker Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou, as well as Jack Lisowski, Sam Craigie, and Akani Songsermsawad.
Thursday will prove to be the busiest day of the week with two rounds to get through, meaning by the end of the day’s play the last eight contenders for the Welsh Open crown will be known.