Aiming to win the Cazoo Masters for the first time in six years, Ronnie O’Sullivan started in fine style at Alexandra Palace with a 6-1 thrashing of Luca Brecel.
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Crowd favourite O’Sullivan lifted the trophy in 1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017 and is looking to become the first player to win a Triple Crown event on eight occasions. The reigning World Champion meets Mark Williams or David Gilbert in the quarter-finals in London on Thursday at 1pm, and if he wins that match O’Sullivan will take his career earnings from this tournament past the £2 million mark.
Brecel wasted chances in the early stages today, making mistakes on the colours in the second and third frames, and O’Sullivan once again proved a powerful front runner as he raced away after the interval. He made two centuries including a 134 which is the new target for the £15,000 high break prize.
“I gave everything 100 per cent today, played my game and hoped to get a result,” said 47-year-old O’Sullivan, who has already won the Hong Kong Masters and Cazoo Champion of Champions this season. “It is never guaranteed but it went my way today. I have to manage my emotions and the adrenaline that goes through my body. I have to go out there and do a job so I can’t get too excited. The crowd come and pay their money and they want to see a good match so I feel a responsibility sometimes. But I can’t play with that kind of mindset, I just have to try my best.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have 2,000 people expecting you to play well. At my age I just try to enjoy every moment and I think I have a really good perspective on life and the game. I don’t want to be defined by snooker or disappointed if I don’t do well. I have enjoyed the last ten or 12 years of snooker more than I did before.”
A break of 97 gave O’Sullivan the opening frame, then Brecel could have levelled in the second but ran out of position in potting the brown, then missed a difficult long blue, leading 57-42. O’Sullivan got the better of a safety exchange and cleared for 2-0. The third also came down to the colours, and Brecel converted a fantastic pot on the green with the rest, added the brown but then went in-off when potting the blue, trying to gain position on the pink. Again his opponent punished him for 3-0.
The standard moved up a notch as Brecel pulled one back with a break of 100, before O’Sullivan fired runs of 134 and 104 to open a 5-1 advantage. And a run of 53 in frame seven helped him book a 24th Masters quarter-final.
Belgium’s Brecel said: “I just didn’t play well. I enjoyed the walk-in, the crowd was really good, even if they just support Ronnie, which is normal! I enjoyed the experience, I wish I had played a bit better. When you play Ronnie, you have to be on top form to have a chance to win. I need to practise more and be sharper for the next tournament. I had my chances today and didn’t take them. Ronnie didn’t make a lot of mistakes – that’s why he’s the GOAT.”