Northern Ireland Open semi-finals

Ronnie O’Sullivan Starts Strongly in Belfast

Ronnie O’Sullivan produced another scintillating display of scoring to comfortably beat Soheil Vahedi 4-0 in the first round of the Northern Ireland Open on Tuesday in Belfast.

O’Sullivan is up to 971 career centuries after his hat-trick in Belfast. Photo credit: World Snooker

O’Sullivan had spent much of the morning before his game on social media complaining about the current state of the sport.

In particular, the world number three lambasted the quick turnaround of tournaments that resulted in Kyren Wilson being forced to play his opening round fixture less than 24 hours after losing to the “Rocket” in a dramatic Champion of Champions final on Sunday.

While Wilson crashed out on Monday night in a turgid tie with Lee Walker that concluded after midnight, the extra night’s rest seemed to do O’Sullivan the power of good as he compiled a hat-trick of century breaks and an 86 to hammer the Iranian.

Vahedi had opportunities in each of the four frames to make something happen but was clearly in awe of the five-time world champion, wildly missing a succession of routine pots as O’Sullivan punished every mistake in style.

The 42 year-old recently referenced the importance of his vastly improved diet since he began working with Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert.

“Before I met Rhiannon, I was playing well enough, but I was running out of steam,” O’Sullivan told Betway in the run up to his defence of next week’s Betway UK Championship in York.

“I got tired because I was eating bad food. But once I started working with Rhiannon, I started eating differently.”

“I’m getting 100 per cent out of myself now, whereas before I was probably getting 85 per cent of myself.

“I think most people think I was born with a cue in my hand and that when I get on the table it’s all a piece of cake but that’s not the reality – I have to work hard.

“There’s other top players. They’re so slight, but to make those gains on your opponent takes so much hard work and preparation. They make the difference between winning 6-4 and losing 6-4.”

“I think the UK is probably the worst place I’ve ever been for food, it really is. I see what some places serve up and I just think: ‘Wow. No wonder we’re not producing great athletes.’

“You look at other countries, what they eat, and it’s fresh, proper grub – I think it makes a huge difference to your development.

“I travel in Europe a lot, to places like Bulgaria and Romania, and even there the tomatoes taste different, the cucumbers taste different. In the UK, it’s quantity over quality, and I’m trying to avoid being part of that system.”

O’Sullivan has certainly given the rest of the Main Tour plenty of food for thought this season with two titles already in the bag and he’ll be the favourite to land a 34th ranking crown this week at the Waterfront Hall if he continues his strong form.

Meanwhile, world number one Mark Selby also progressed to the last 64 in what was an overall better day for the marquee names compared to the first day in Belfast, when several stars bit the dust.

Selby, who has somewhat surprisingly never been beyond the last 32 of a Home Nations event, had a high break of 122 in beating Anthony Hamilton 4-1 while Neil Robertson fought back from 3-1 down to deny Ben Woollaston in a decider.

Judd Trump, who has blown hot and cold this year as he fails to find any kind of proper consistency, won the last three frames to edge Matthew Selt 4-2 while close pal Jack Lisowski found things a little easier in a 4-0 whitewash of Hossein Vafaei.

In what was another busy day of action in Belfast, European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson knocked in a brace of tons – missing the yellow in a 147 attempt – to beat James Cahill and set up an intriguing second round clash with Selby.

Former world champion Peter Ebdon comprehensively beat former professional Patrick Wallace, who was invited as one of the two local wildcards to compete in this year’s edition.

There was some joy for the Northern Irish crowd, though, as popular veteran Joe Swail was a 4-1 winner against amateur Luke Simmonds.

Elsewhere, Matthew Stevens continued his mini resurgence of late by clinching a 4-3 triumph over Ricky Walden, World Open runner-up David Gilbert overcame Fergal O’Brien, and 2016 Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King thumped John Astley 4-0.

Among some of the others to safely make it through were Alan McManus, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, and Martin O’Donnell – who edged Jimmy White in a decider.

Live coverage from Belfast will be on Eurosport and Quest TV.

Click here to view the draw(times: CET)

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