Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby got their 2022 Masters campaigns off to positive starts by reaching the last eight on Tuesday at the Alexandra Palace in London.
O’Sullivan took advantage of a sloppy performance from Jack Lisowski to steamroll his fellow Englishman 6-1, while Selby overcame Stephen Maguire 6-3.
With ten Masters titles between them, O’Sullivan and Selby are among the heavy favourites for the crown this year and are on opposite sides of the draw.
The pair contested the title-deciding showdowns in 2009, 2010, and 2014 with the Rocket sandwiching two victories to the Jester’s one from those high-profile encounters.
O’Sullivan, who won the last tournament of 2021 with victory in the World Grand Prix, compiled two centuries as he powered past a tame Lisowski.
The 46 year-old wasn’t put under any serious pressure but that will likely change in the next round when he faces Neil Robertson for a berth in the last four.
O’Sullivan beat the Australian in a thrilling battle just before Christmas to land a record-extending 38th ranking event trophy in Coventry.
Selby, meanwhile, could only muster one break above 50 in his typically hard-fought defeat of Maguire, avenging his reverse to the Scot at the same hurdle twelve months ago.
The world champion entertains close pal Barry Hawkins in the next round, an opponent who he interestingly has an inferior head-to-head record against from their prior meetings in all competitions.
Elsewhere, the first round will conclude on Wednesday with the remaining couple of the last-16 ties set to take place at the Ally Pally.
Former champions Judd Trump and Mark Allen duel in arguably the fixture of the opening stage, while 2020 winner Stuart Bingham faces 2018 runner-up Kyren Wilson as well.
Live coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport across the UK and Ireland.
2022 Masters Draw
Yan Bingtao (1) 4-6 Mark Williams (9)
John Higgins (8) 6-2 Zhao Xintong (10)
Neil Robertson (5) 6-3 Anthony McGill (16)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (4) 6-1 Jack Lisowski (14)
Judd Trump (3) vs Mark Allen (12)
Kyren Wilson (6) vs Stuart Bingham (15)
Shaun Murphy (7) 2-6 Barry Hawkins (11)
Mark Selby (2) 6-3 Stephen Maguire (13)
Featured photo credit: WST
Thursday’s double-bill of Robertson v O’Sullivan and Williams v Higgins is mouthwatering. I highly doubt in the event’s 47 year history there’s been a more appetising pair of quarter-finals on one day. Four all-time greats locking horns against the backdrop of the best atmosphere in snooker. You should spread the word across South Korea for people to settle in for a day of mesmerising green baize action!