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Ronnie O’Sullivan to begin quest for eighth UK Championship

Ronnie O’Sullivan will finally enter the fray at the 2023 UK Championship on Tuesday when he takes on Anthony McGill in York.

The Rocket is a record seven-time winner of the prestigious ranking event, which represents the first Triple Crown title of the season that’s up for grabs.

O’Sullivan has generated headlines recently as much for his off-table escapades as he has for his performances on it.

The 47 year-old triumphed at the Shanghai Masters in September with an 11-9 defeat of world champion Luca Brecel in the final.

Yet O’Sullivan has withdrawn from several tournaments during the 2023/24 snooker season so far, citing illness and mental health concerns.

Then last week, there was plenty of hubbub surrounding the release of his documentary film, Ronnie O’Sullivan: The Edge of Everything.

A star-studded premiere in London had the Englishman swapping the green baize for the red carpet, with the documentary providing a birds-eye insight into O’Sullivan’s record-equalling seventh World Championship crown in 2022.

As ever, it will be fascinating to see which version of the world number one will turn up to the Barbican Centre in York.

Speaking of that ranking, O’Sullivan will again be attempting to defend his status as the leading player on the official two-year standings.

Brecel, Mark Allen, and most recently Judd Trump have all had opportunities to usurp O’Sullivan in the world rankings list during this campaign, without success.

An early defeat for the latter would open the door again to a potential change at the top of the rankings.

O’Sullivan, however, boasts a far superior head-to-head record against McGill and will be expected to make it through to the last 16.

His latest appearance in the event comes on the 30th anniversary of his famous glory at the 1993 UK Championship as a 17 year-old.

O’Sullivan beat then world champion Stephen Hendry in the final to announce himself as the newest star of the sport.

Four years later he beat Hendry to capture the trophy for a second time, and further UK titles subsequently came in 2001, 2007, 2014, 2017, and 2018.

Elsewhere on day four, the first round will reach its conclusion with the other matches in O’Sullivan’s quarter of the draw also taking place.

John Higgins plays Joe O’Connor, Neil Robertson will attempt to regain form against Zhou Yuelong, and there’ll be a quick-fire battle between Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Robert Milkins.

On Monday, Trump defied illness to safely book his spot in the second round courtesy of a 6-1 thrashing of Pang Junxu.

The dominant force from this term will encounter Jamie Jones next after the Welshman upset Jack Lisowski.

English duo Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins, meanwhile, set up a clash against one another after recording respective triumphs over Mark Joyce and Ben Woollaston.

2023 UK Championship draw and results

Last 32 (bo11)

Mark Allen (1) 5-6 Ding Junhui
Tom Ford (16) 6-5 Noppon Saengkham
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Fan Zhengyi
Kyren Wilson (8) 5-6 Jamie Clarke

Mark Selby (5) 6-0 Mark Joyce
Barry Hawkins (12) 6-4 Ben Woollaston
Jack Lisowski (13) 4-6 Jamie Jones
Judd Trump (4) 6-1 Pang Junxu

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Anthony McGill
Robert Milkins (14) 6-5 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
John Higgins (11) 6-3 Joe O’Connor
Neil Robertson (6) 2-6 Zhou Yuelong

Shaun Murphy (7) 4-6 Hossein Vafaei
Ali Carter (10) 3-6 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-5 Elliot Slessor
Luca Brecel (2) 6-4 Yuan Sijun

Last 16 (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-3 Tom Ford (16)
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Jamie Clarke
Mark Selby (5) 6-5 Barry Hawkins (12)
Jamie Jones 0-6 Judd Trump (4)

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Robert Milkins (14)
John Higgins (11) 3-6 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-1 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-4 Luca Brecel (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-5 Mark Williams (9)
Mark Selby (5) 3-6 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-4 Zhang Anda (15)

Semi-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-4 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Hossein Vafaei

Final (bo19)

Ding Junhui 7-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (3)

Featured photo credit: WST

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