Ronnie O’Sullivan battled to a 6-4 win over Barry Hawkins in the first round of the Coral Players Championship in Preston.
Defending champion O’Sullivan is through to the quarter-finals at the Guild Hall and will face Mark Selby or John Higgins on Friday afternoon (tickets still available – click here for details).
O’Sullivan may have been on top on the table, but he went Down Under for a post match interview, putting on his best Australian accent. “It was a very tough match and he made me work hard for it,” he said. “I’m just so pleased to get through in the end. It was a tough match against a tough opponent.”
World number three O’Sullivan started superbly with a break of 106, the 995th century of his career. Runs of 80 and 51 put him 3-0 ahead before Hawkins pulled one back with a 104.
After the interval, O’Sullivan made a 74 to go 4-1 up then shared the next two to lead 5-2. Hawkins battled back strongly with 65 and 110 to close to 5-4. But O’Sullivan, chasing his fourth title of the season, closed out victory in frame ten with a run of 64.
Mark Allen, the number one seed for this tournament as he tops the one-year rankings, eased into the quarter-finals with a 6-2 win over Stephen Maguire.
Breaks of 67 and 61 helped put Allen 5-0 ahead. Maguire pulled two back with 63 and 77 before Northern Irishman Allen settled the result with a 66 in frame eight.
“Playing Stephen is not very nice because he’s one of my best mates,” said Allen, winner of two ranking titles this season. “It’s good to get the win and move on. I was patchy, I made breaks at crucial times. There are plenty of positives to take though Stephen wasn’t at his best.
“I’m not quite where I want to be with my game. I didn’t play in India or the Shoot Out and I’m not going to play in Gibraltar so I’ve got time to prepare for the big tournaments. Something I have struggled with in recent years is finding the balance in terms of which tournaments to play in. Last year I was struggling to stay in the top 16 so I had to play in everything. Now I can pick and choose more but that brings its own pressure because you’re missing tournaments that others are playing in.”
Allen now meets Stuart Bingham or David Gilbert on Thursday evening. He added: “They are two of the in form players who have got to finals this season. They are both probably playing snooker than I am but I have belief in my ability.”