The Rocket previously won the tournament in 2017.
Ronnie O’Sullivan beat David Lilley 4-1 to reach the last 64 of the English Open on Monday, as the fourth ranking event of the season commenced in Milton Keynes.
The six-time world champion lost the opening frame to his amateur opponent but reeled off the subsequent four with rapid breaks of 65, 58, 80, and 100.
O’Sullivan will face another top-up competitor at the next hurdle of the English Open, with former Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou standing in the Englishman’s way.
Day one’s action at the Marshall Arena revolved around the conclusion of the so-called qualifying round in which matches involving the top 16 players were held over to the venue stages.
It meant that all of the heavy hitters were in action, and while the majority of them safely made it through, there were a few notable defeats.
Mark Allen couldn’t maintain the form that saw him claim last month’s Northern Ireland Open crown on home soil as he suffered a 4-1 reverse in an admittedly tricky affair with Luca Brecel.
Jack Lisowski and Stephen Maguire crashed out as well following respective 4-3 defeats at the hands of Mark Joyce and Mark King.
There were victories, however, for the likes of defending champion Judd Trump, world champion Mark Selby, and Australian Neil Robertson.
The latter won all four frames in a one-sided triumph against Andy Hicks, Trump outplayed Matthew Selt 4-1, while soon-to-be world number one Selby overcame Sanderson Lam 4-2.
Barry Hawkins compiled a break of 146 as he negotiated the challenge of women’s world champion Reanne Evans, while Ng On Yee also bowed out in similar fashion to Stuart Bingham.
John Higgins, Kyren Wilson, Yan Bingtao, and Ding Junhui – whose win was his first of the 2021/22 snooker season – all additionally advanced to the last 64.
On Tuesday, a busy day will see several of the top 16 players returning to action against many of those who had already qualified for the event on the back of preliminary-round victories in September.
Interesting ties include Trump’s battle with the in-form Jimmy Robertson, the encounter between Higgins and young pretender Oliver Lines, and seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry’s bout with Chris Wakelin.
Click here to view the full 2021 English Open draw (times: CET)
Where to Watch the English Open
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on Quest TV in addition to blanket Eurosport coverage provided across all of Europe.
Various broadcasters around the world will be offering coverage (information here), while fans in territories without another service can access the event through Matchroom.Live.