Ronnie O’Sullivan looked unstoppable as he produced one of snooker’s great sessions in building a 7-1 lead over Stuart Bingham at the World Championship in Sheffield on Tuesday.
On Monday he had complained of feeling “tired and jaded” after seeing off Ali Carter in the second round, despite this being his first major tournament for a year.
Pity the man who faces a refreshed O’Sullivan then, because the supposedly weary 37-year-old managed to dig out a vintage performance that saw Bingham almost whitewashed in their opening eight frames.
The defending world champion ploughed in two centuries and five more breaks of more than 50 as he took charge of the Crucible quarter-final against a shell-shocked Bingham. He led 7-0 but Bingham avoided absolute annihilation by pinching the final frame of the session.
From the outset, it was destined not to be the world No 8’s day. He played a hapless safety shot that put O’Sullivan in for a frame-winning chance and breaks of 79 and 54 got the four-time champion off to a bright start.
The fearsome scoring continued, with runs of 111, 60, 87, 133 and 98 forcing Bingham to spend much of the match in his chair.
Judd Trump staged a terrific recovery to level his quarter-final at 8-8 against the 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy, as they competed for the right to face the winner of O’Sullivan versus Bingham.
It looked to be Murphy’s match for the taking when he led 6-2 by lunchtime, and 8-3 soon after they resumed this evening following an early 91 break. But Bristolian 23-year-old Trump, runner-up as a qualifier in 2011, fought back aggressively and won five consecutive frames, making breaks of 93 and 118 in the middle session.
If picking a winner there was anybody’s guess, there was little doubting which way O’Sullivan’s match was going.
Bingham was as much a spectator as the paying visitors surrounding him for nearly the entire afternoon, and his mother Maureen, in attendance on her 55th birthday, could not have enjoyed the spectacle.
There was thankfully for Bingham’s sake the consolation of taking the eighth frame, to ensure he avoided the dreaded prospect of the Crucible’s first 13-0 defeat. Beyond that there was scant cause for any cheer for the man who was outscored by 733 points to 199.
O’Sullivan has given himself a realistic chance to finish the match in two sessions now, with a further eight frames scheduled for Wednesday morning’s session and nine pencilled in for the evening.
Considering he was playing a man in the form of his life, who posted crushing wins over Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Trump on his way to winning the Premier League title this season, it was some statement from O’Sullivan.
Former world champion Ken Doherty said on the BBC: “He was fantastic. It’s effortless and that’s the beauty of his talent.” Six-time winner Steve Davis suggested O’Sullivan made it “look as easy as shelling peas”.
Chester’s Ricky Walden made a bright start to his quarter-final against Welsh qualifier Michael White as he moved 6-2 in front. White is appearing at his first World Championship and has already seen off two-time champion Mark Williams and eccentric Thai player Dechewat Poomjaeng.
But the 21-year-old found it tough going against first-time Crucible quarter-finalist Walden and made a best break of only 40. Walden finished the session in style with a run of 113.
Kent’s Barry Hawkins savoured his first experience of a World Championship quarter-final as he built a 9-7 lead against China’s Ding Junhui. Leading 5-3 from their opening session, world No 14 Hawkins, 33, increased that to 8-4 by the mid-session interval.
No doubt aware that former UK and Masters champion Ding had produced an inspired middle session in seeing off Mark King in the second round, Hawkins managed to keep the pressure on his 26-year-old opponent, who lives in Sheffield, ahead of Wednesday’s concluding session. Ding finished his evening’s work in style with a break of 72 to stay within touching distance.
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