Ronnie O’Sullivan lived up to his nickname of the “Rocket” as he launched himself into the semi-finals of the Champion of Champions on Tuesday in Coventry.
Most players slow down with age but the soon to be 43 year-old was in stellar form as he dislodged two fellow former world champions with an average shot time of just 16 seconds.
O’Sullivan took advantage of more favourabe table conditions, continuing a trend that seemingly began in Daqing last week when there were more than 100 tons made at the main stages of a ranking event for the first time.
Two silky hundred-plus breaks came in his 4-2 triumph over Stuart Bingham in the first round but that was only the appetiser as O’Sullivan produced a sensational four centuries in his 6-3 success against familiar foe John Higgins.
Higgins, who in the afternoon edged Ryan Day in a high-scoring affair that went the distance, had actually played well to fight back from two frames adrift to lead 3-2 after the mid-session interval but the 2016 champion was powerless as his esteemed opponent battered the back of the pockets, with runs of 101, 137, and 114 helping him overturn the scores in quick fashion.
The victory sets up an intriguing semi-finals clash with Shaun Murphy, who caused an upset twelve months ago when he overcame the five-time world champion in a thrilling final to claim the 2017 title.
O’Sullivan, who has never failed to at least reach the final at the Ricoh Arena, already gained revenge for that loss by denying Murphy trophies in the UK and Players Championship finals last season.
Yet, although the rivalry has thawed in recent times, the pair has never really seen eye-to-eye and it will surely be billed as another grudge match between two polar opposites.
Meanwhile, the bottom half of the draw gets under way on Wednesday with the third bracket of the draw getting whittled down to produce another last four contender.
World champion Mark Williams entertains Kyren Wilson, already a two-time winner on the tour this campaign following glories in the Paul Hunter Classic and the Six Red World Championship.
The winner of that tie will meet either Judd Trump or Luca Brecel, who both must feel thankful to be in the tournament at all having not won a trophy between them in the last year.
As there were only 12 different counting champions since Murphy’s reign began, four players were needed from the official world rankings to make up the numbers with Trump and Brecel among those able to take advantage.
Live coverage continues on ITV4 and Facebook (selected territories)
Click here to view the draw (times: CET)
🗣️ @ronnieo147 reflects on a superb day of snooker which saw the Rocket hit six century breaks across both matches, on Friday he faces @Magician147 in a repeat of last year’s ManBetX @ChampOfChamps final!
— ChampionofChampions (@ChampOfChamps) November 6, 2018