Ronnie O’Sullivan overcame a tough challenge against Rod Lawler at the new 888.com World Grand Prix, winning 4-2 to reach the last 16.
O’Sullivan insisted his game was rusty as he had barely played since last month’s Welsh Open, but the five-time World Champion did enough to progress, in front of a large crowd in Llandudno. The Rocket now meets Robert Milkins or in-form Michael White on Wednesday evening at the £300,000 event.
A scrappy opening frame went O’Sullivan’s way before world number 35 Lawler levelled with a break of 115. The next two frames were shared, then Liverpool’s Lawler looked favourite to go 3-2 up until he broke down on 31 in frame five. O’Sullivan made a crucial 54 clearance, and clinched the match in the next frame with a run of 49.
“Today was the first time I have picked my cue up since the last tournament. I was very rusty and didn’t expect to win tonight,” said O’Sullivan. “I’ve been enjoying life so I didn’t want to force myself to the practice table. If I can get through to Friday I might have half a chance, but you can’t expect to take a month off and then come and compete with these guys. If I practised for four hours a day, I’d be favourite to win most tournaments. But I’d rather do stuff that floats my boat. If I play Michael White next I’ll be going home because he’s playing well. He has won the last two tournaments, he’s full of confidence and he would be more than favourite to beat me.”
Neil Robertson eased to a 4-0 win over Luca Brecel with top breaks of 64, 79 and 121. The Australian said: “Overall I’m very pleased with the start to the tournament and hopefully I can kick on. I had a great win at the Gdynia Open a couple of weeks ago, and I’m looking to carry on that winning form. It has been a good season so far, I’ve got no complaints with the way I’ve played. It’s just everyone’s very hungry and it’s very hard to win tournaments.”
Matthew Selt won a match watched live by his dad for the first time in his pro career, beating Barry Hawkins 4-0 with top breaks 65 and 54. China’s Liang Wenbo trailed Mark Allen three times but hit back to win 4-3, making a 51 in the decider.
Liang, who now meets Graeme Dott or John Higgins, said: “Best of seven is a short format. Mark was in control from the beginning – he took his chances well but I didn’t. In the deciding frame I played well. Today I was under pressure and hopefully I can improve in the next round. I might have beaten Dott before but Higgins has always been a bogeyman for me.”