The English Open got under way on Monday with Ronnie O’Sullivan again generating headlines as he made his first appearance in a ranking event of the 2018/19 season.
O’Sullivan, who won the lucrative Shanghai Masters invitational last month in China, began his defence of the English Open with a 4-1 triumph over Kurt Maflin before launching a fierce attack at the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley.
The “Rocket”, who knocked in breaks of 104, 82, and 70 in comfortably overcoming Maflin, criticised the new venue for this year’s first Home Nations series event – stating that it lacked an atmosphere and smelled of urine.
Never shy of voicing his opinions on the current state of the game and World Snooker in particular, the 42 year-old suggested that the organisers must be cutting corners with the venue, in his opinion at least, not up to scratch.
World Snooker immediately defended its position, which replaced the Barnsley Metrodome as the host this year, and said that no formal complaint had been lodged.
On a busy first day of action, world number one Mark Selby and fellow former world champions Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy were among some of the other marquee names to advance to the last 64.
Selby, the recent winner of the China Championship in Guangzhou, scored heavily in recording a 4-0 drubbing of Sanderson Lam while Robertson and Murphy outplayed Ross Muir and Mike Dunn respectively.
World champion Mark Williams enjoyed a 4-1 win over fellow Welshman Dominic Dale while there were victories elsewhere for the likes of Ryan Day, Ali Carter, Anthony McGill, and Marco Fu.
There weren’t too many massive upsets from the early exchanges, although recent European Masters runner-up Joe Perry fell to a 4-2 defeat against Daniel Wells.
Two-time ranking event winner Michael White exited too in a tight 4-3 battle with Hossein Vafaei of Iran, while amateur David Lilley accounted for Tom Ford.
Elsewhere, in-form Chinese hotshot Zhao Xintong held off Irishman Michael Judge, who was a late replacement for the suspended Jamie Jones, in a decider.
Zhao’s compatriots Yan Bingtao, Luo Honghao, and Zhang Yong each progressed but it was a mixed day for the Chinese contingent as several others failed at the first hurdle.
It was a mixed day too for several of the sport’s veteran stars with major champions Peter Ebdon, Matthew Stevens, and Alan McManus all going into the second round but Irish duo Ken Doherty and Joe Swail suffering heavy losses.
Among some of the others to win were Martin Gould, Ben Woollaston, and Nigel Bond – the latter fighting off Tian Pengfei 4-3 despite his opponent compiling a hat-trick of century breaks.
John Higgins, Judd Trump, and Kyren Wilson are some of the big names entering the fray on Tuesday.