Luca Brecel's Best Long Pots | 2023 Cazoo World Championship

O’Sullivan Sets New Crucible Record

O’Sullivan won the title in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2020 and 2022

Ronnie O’Sullivan achieved a new record for appearances at the Crucible as he battled to a 10-7 success over Pang Junxu in the first round of the Cazoo World Championship in Sheffield.

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O’Sullivan made a fast start and went 5-0 ahead but as the day went on he struggled with the affects of illness and fatigue. He looked vulnerable in the closing stages when he was hauled back from 9-4 to 9-7, but eventually made it through to the second round for the 27th time.

“I am relieved it’s over,” the 47-year-old told Eurosport. “I’ve got a bug. Everything has gone, I was just hanging in there. In the end I was just desperate to get over the line, it was a horrible feeling. I can’t wait to get back to bed. At least I can have a few days of rest now.”

O’Sullivan first played at the Crucible in 1993 and has been ever present since; 31 appearances puts him one ahead of Steve Davis. He could have reached another landmark as a century today would have made him the first player to make 200 tons at the Crucible, but his highest break was just 82.

Having equalled Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles last year, today’s victory was the first step in his quest to win an eighth Crucible crown and he now faces another tough test in the last 16 against Ding Junhui or Hossein Vafaei.

China’s 23-year-old Pang, who was Rookie of the Year in 2021, impressed on his Crucible debut, showing his charisma around the table.

He led 6-3 after the first session then that 82 extended his advantage. Pang had a chance to snatch the next from 54-0 down but ran out of position with two reds left, and later played a loose safety which handed his opponent the chance to extend his lead to 8-3.

Frame 12 came down to the last red and Pang enjoyed a handy fluke, slotting it into a top corner when attempting safety, which allowed him to pull one back. O’Sullivan dominated the 13th for 9-4 but the tide turned after the interval as Pang reeled off three in a row with 78, 70 and 73. His hopes of an upset were ended in frame 17 by O’Sullivan’s 81.

“When you are feeling good, you are enjoying every moment,” added world number one O’Sullivan. “But tonight I felt as if I was sliding about. It feels like glandular fever, it saps the energy out of you. Sometimes you just have to get through those situations. You fight, that’s what you do. Tiger Woods won a tournament on one leg, Stephen Hendry won the world title with a broken arm.

“I believe in the snooker Gods, if I had lost tonight they would have determined that. I turn up and try my best, and if that’s not good enough I have to move on. I never get down or frustrated or worried.”

Asked about Pang, he added: “He’s a phenomenal player, a joy to watch. I was like him 30 years ago. It was lovely to see.”

On the other table, Jak Jones started well on his Crucible debut, edging to a 5-4 lead over Ali Carter. Welshman Jones earned his maiden appearance with a 10-8 win over Barry Hawkins in the final qualifying round.

A scrappy opening frame went Carter’s way, then Jones responded with break of 74 to level. Frame three lasted 30 minutes and came down to the colours, Jones potting pink and black to edge 2-1 ahead. Carter was in first with a break of 45 in the fourth, but Jones produced an excellent run of 60 to snatch it.

After the interval, German Masters champion Carter fired in the highest break of the final stages so far, a 143 total clearance, to pull within one at 3-2. The high standard continued, as Jones made 75 in the sixth and Carter crafted 71 in the seventh to leave the score at 4-3.

Carter led 65-1 in frame eight, but a brilliant clearance of 65 from Jones saw him double his lead. World number 12 Carter took the last frame of the session to end the night a single frame behind. They play to a finish on Sunday evening from 7pm.