Ronnie O’Sullivan stepped up his bid for a fifth UK Championship title with a 6-2 win over Ben Woollaston to reach the last 16 of the Coral-sponsored event.
O’Sullivan recovered from a slow start against Woollaston, winning easily in the end to set up a match with Matthew Selt.
The Rocket, who first won the tournament at the age of 17, said he felt much more at ease playing on his broken ankle today following extensive work with the physiotherapy team at Sheffield United during the past few days.
But despite his improved health, O’Sullivan was struggling early on as Wollaston pulled out some excellent pots to win frames two and three – the second on the final black and the third with a well-worked 87 break – to lead 2-1.
Crucially, O’Sullivan took the fourth frame with a 56 break to head into the interval at 2-2. Following a chat with psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters at the interval, he found an extra gear and won the next four in a row thanks to runs of 65, 104 and 84.
“I didn’t really settle in the first four frames but I managed to get it to 2-2 so I was pleased to come through in the end,” said O’Sullivan, five time winner of the World Championship.
“If I’m in the right frame of mind and I feel like I’m cueing alright, the scoreboard doesn’t really play much of a part. I’d rather be 4-0 down and feeling good and positive about my game than 4-0 up and feeling rubbish. It’s just about getting your mind right really and I did in the end and felt a bit more settled.
“The ankle is much better – today is the first day where I actually felt I could walk without worrying about whether I was going to fall over. I had total confidence in it so didn’t have to think about it.
“It was still a bit sore because there is still a lot of swelling around it but I’ve been doing some exercises on it which has told my brain that it is strong enough to hold up. It’s just a twisting and turning that I’m not 100 per cent with it.
“Thanks to the Sheffield United physio team because without them I probably wouldn’t have been playing out there – I’ll be back down there tomorrow.”
Defending champion Neil Robertson is also through to the fourth round following a 6-2 victory over Peter Ebdon.
The Australian went into the match with a poor record against the 2006 UK Champion, having lost all of their previous five meetings in full ranking events, and it took what he considered his best performance of the season to register his first win over the 44-year-old.
Robertson started the match brightly, winning four of the first five frames thanks to breaks of 74, 108, 84 and 70. Ebdon closed to 4-2 by taking the sixth frame but Robertson, who could recapture his spot at the top of the rankings this week, finished the match off with runs of 78 and 65.
“I’d say that was probably the best performance of my season so far, especially when you’re playing such a great player like Peter,” said the 2010 World Champion. “I had a different mind-set coming in, I knew I had to play well and to be at the top of my game to win and I was very pleased with my performance today.
“The only ball that I can think of that I missed was a green in the second frame but other than that it was faultless. The only thing you could probably say is that maybe I could have had a few more centuries but perhaps that might be asking a bit much.”
He faces Graeme Dott in the next round after the Scot put in a brilliant performance to whitewash world number 16 Robert Milkins, laying a dent into the Gloucester-man’s Masters qualification hopes.
Dott, whose best run in this competition came back in 2006 when he reached the semi-finals, was in free-scoring form knocking in runs of 117, 120 and 127 as he consigned Milkins, who was still struggling with an eye infection, to a 6-0 defeat.
Stuart Bingham is also into the last 16, although he was made to work very hard for his victory by a gritty performance from hot prospect Joel Walker, who took him to a final frame decider.
20-year-old Walker was quick out of the blocks, winning the first three frames with top breaks of 59 and 56.
The next two frames were shared but then Bingham, winner of the Shanghai Masters back in September, began to show his class, reeling off the next three to go within a frame of victory.
Walker, who made it to the last eight of the Welsh Open earlier this year, hit a brilliant run of 83 to make it 5-5. And he had two chances in the decider but could only build a 35-0 lead, allowing Bingham to step in with a 95 clearance.