He is definitely not back to his brilliant best, but it seems defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan’s B-game might still be good enough to win this year’s Betfair.com World Championship.
The ‘Rocket’ looks his usually deadly self amongst the balls, but he’s still not firing on all cylinders.
But the four-time world champion hasn’t yet been truly tested on snooker’s greatest stage. Last night, O’Sullivan returned with a slender 9-7 lead against his fellow Essex professional Ali Carter. But Carter didn’t punish his opponent’s mistakes and O’Sullivan punished him to claim a 13-8 victory.
The scoreline could have been much closer if Carter had stepped up in his quest to end a run of 12 ranking event defeats to O’Sullivan.
That record now stands at 13 as Carter, beaten convincingly by the green baize game’s box office in last year’s final, showed just how to get over the winning line as he booked his quarter-final place.
“Anyone who says you’re not uncomfortable out there is a liar,” admitted O’Sullivan.
“You’ve just got to stick in there when the going gets tough. I’m surprised how I’m playing. To have won my couple of matches so far is a bonus.”
O’Sullivan kept his concentration to win a scrappy opening frame after Carter had missed the chance to reduce his arrears when he ran out of position on a break of 40. Carter did hit back with a break of 86 in the next frame, but O’Sullivan pocketed runs of 88 and 106 to edge within one frame of victory.
And that win was just around the corner as O’Sullivan completed the job with a break of 89 in the next frame.
Former Masters and UK champion Ding clinched a battling 13-9 win over Mark King. Junhui resumed 9-7 up on King, but the Sheffield-based cueman saw his lead reduced to 10-9 as King mounted a superb fightback. But Ding kept his focus and raised his game with breaks of 69, 104, 98 and 52 earning him a quarter-final meeting with Barry Hawkins.
Results: O’Sullivan beat Carter 13-8, Ding beat King 13-9, Stuart Bingham v Mark Davis 13-10.
Today’s quarter-finals: 10am – Shaun Murphy v Judd Trump, Barry Hawkins v Ding; 2.30pm - O’Sullivan v Bingham, Robert Milkins/Ricky Walden v Michael White; 7pm – Murphy v Trump, Hawkins v Junhui – all sessions max of 8 frames.