Barry Hawkins, the only player to have reached the one-table situation at the Betfred World Championship in each of the last three years, launched another Crucible campaign with a 10-5 defeat of Zhang Anda.
Hawkins was runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan in Sheffield in 2013 then lost to the same opponent in the semis in 2014, and to Shaun Murphy in the last four a year ago. Now he will face O’Sullivan once again in the last 16, with that match starting on Saturday.
World number 11 Hawkins has enjoyed several highlights this season including victory in the Riga Open and a run to the final of the Masters, where he lost to O’Sullivan again, and the left-hander will be a dangerous opponent for the tournament favourite.
Ditton-based Hawkins led 6-3 overnight and extended his lead in the first frame today, making a break of 52. China’s Zhang won a scrappy 11th frame to make it 7-4 before Hawkins took the next with a top run of 57. Zhang then made an impressive 47 clearance in frame 13 to keep alive his hopes of a fight back at 8-5.
But it was Hawkins who dominated after the interval, making a 55 to go four frames ahead, then finishing in style with a brilliant 141 total clearance, a new front-runner for the £10,000 high break prize.
“I don’t know what happened yesterday, I was awful, I could have easily been 6-3 down after the first session and in the end I was lucky to be 6-3 up,” said Hawkins, a winner of two ranking events.
“My concentration was terrible, it happens to some players. I think Stephen Maguire said he couldn’t find the buzz and it’s hard to believe but I think that happened to me a little bit.
“Today I was more determined and wanted to show what I was about and win the match, and the 141 was a nice way to finish.
“I’ve got to do something special for sure next round if I want to beat Ronnie. I want to simply try and give him a game, try and push him if I can, because the last couple of times I’ve crumbled and he’s blown me away.
“At the moment I’m not even thinking past the next round, I’ve got the toughest draw you can get. If I can ‘do a Bingham’ and beat Ronnie, then you never know what can happen, but I’ve got a mountain to climb first and I’ve got to focus on that.”