It was a blistering display of attacking snooker from the Rocket as he fired breaks of 63, 129, 80, 90, 103 and 106. His victory took just three minutes more than his 53-minute 6-0 whitewash of Dominic Dale at the 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy, the quickest ever best-of-11 match.
O’Sullivan has lifted the UK Championship trophy five times, most recently in 2014 in York, and if he carries tonight’s form into the televised stages he’ll take some stopping. He now meets Rhys Clark, who won a black-ball deciding frame to edge out Li Hang 6-5.
“I got three centuries in my last match and lost, so it just goes to show that centuries don’t mean anything,” said 40-year-old O’Sullivan, who won his first UK crown back in 1993. “I don’t really read too much into it, you just play one match at a time and see what happens.
“I played alright, I am just treating it a bit like a knockabout. I have other things in my life so snooker is a bit of a distraction and getting my cue out is a pleasure. When it was all I had to do, I felt like I was trapped in a prison, now it is a bit exciting. Trying to be too serious about what you do is harmful to you.”
Mark King went from the sublime to the ridiculous as he lost 6-2 to Sam Craigie. King played brilliantly to win the Northern Ireland Open last week but today his chances were dented when he forgot to bring his cue into the arena after the mid-session interval. That meant he was docked a frame, as he was not ready to play, and went from 3-1 to 4-1 behind. A break of 141 gave King frame six, but Craigie won the next two to secure his second round spot.
King said: “At the interval I went to the tournament office to get my Betway logo stuck on my waistcoat. I had my cup of tea and my banana, then I was in a bit of a daze and I left my cue in there. Even when I was walking back to the table, and I didn’t have my cue, it didn’t even click. In three days I’ve done two things I’ve never done in 25 years: win an event and get docked a frame.”
Shaun Murphy had to rally from 3-1 down to beat Brazil’s Itaro Santos 6-3, winning the last five frames with top breaks of 66, 71 and 55. “When I was 3-1 down at the interval it was blind panic,” admitted 2008 UK Champion Murphy. “Experience got me through in the end, I tightened my game up and stopped giving him easy chances. I get a buzz here because we’ve got a great connection with this venue and it would be so nice to go on a run.”
John Higgins, snooker’s man in form having won the China Championship and Champion of Champions, saw off Alex Borg 6-3, compiling runs of 132, 68 and 71.
Luca Brecel top scored with 78 in a 6-0 win over Aditya Mehta. Mark Allen was pushed hard by China’s Chen Zhe but eventually won 6-4. The Pistol, who knocked in breaks of 95, 84, 136, 132 and 137, said: “It’s just good to be able to come here, relax and let my arm go. It’s been a long time since I’ve come to a major event as relaxed as this. I was under a lot of stress last week at the Northern Ireland Open because it was my home tournament. Who knows – I might go far here.”