Ronnie O’Sullivan off to a flyer as quest for record eighth world title begins

Ronnie O’Sullivan roared out of the blocks in his quest to become the first eight-time world champion in the modern era as he built an 8-1 lead over Jackson Page in the first session of their first round match at the Crucible.

O’Sullivan looked up for the task from the off as he fired four half-centuries plus a break of 122 in the fifth frame as he left the young Welsh qualifier next to no chance of rescuing the situation when they resume to a conclusion on Thursday.

Making his second appearance at the Crucible, the 22-year-old Page had plenty of early chances but careless errors cost him dear and he looked in real danger of losing the session to whitewash until he crafted a superb break of 142 in the seventh frame to clinch his only success of the day in style.

Otherwise it was business as usual for O’Sullivan, who has seemed much more at ease with the challenge of negotiating another 17-day marathon this year and started accordingly as he stifled any attempt by Page to establish momentum.

Spurning early opportunities in both openers, Page paved the way for O’Sullivan to grab an early lead and a careless missed brown to the middle handed the world number one another simple opportunity to move further in front.

O’Sullivan took the next two either side of the mid-session interval before Page belatedly showed signs of rallying in the sixth, carving a gutsy 23 on the back of a long red but ultimately running out of position and once again letting the favourite sweep up.

Page got a cheer for his seventh-frame clearance, which equalled the highest break so far at the Crucible this year, but it was clearly too little, too late and O’Sullivan duly took the next two to leave him two frames away from a place in the second round.

Kyren Wilson missed out on another Crucible maximum but completed a comprehensive win over Dominic Dale.

Wilson potted 11 reds and blacks in the final frame but ran short on a mid-range red as he aimed to repeat the 147 he had fashioned against Ryan Day at the same stage last year.

Nevertheless, the 32-year-old won the two frames required on Wednesday morning to wrap up a 10-1 win, the most comprehensive victory at the Crucible since Mark Selby’s win over Kurt Maflin by the same score in 2021.

It marked a welcome return to form for Wilson, who has failed to reach a tour final this season and candidly admitted to off-field struggles involving illnesses to his wife and son.

But the 2020 runner-up, who has reached the quarter-finals or better on six of his previous nine visits to the Crucible, believes he is one of a few players who has proved they are capable of enduring the marathon 17-day event.

“A big part of my game is heavy scoring and there are definitely players that are suited to this event and I would like to believe I’m one of those,” said Wilson.

“If I play like that it will take some performance in any round for any player to stop me.”

Dale, at 52 the oldest qualifier since Steve Davis in 2010, was no match for the 12th seed, although he did compile an impressive 120 clearance in the fourth frame of the match.

Mark Allen made hard work of grinding out a 10-6 win over another qualifier, Robbie Williams, having started their final session 7-2 in front.

The fourth seed, who reached the semi-finals for the first time last year, lost the first two frames of the day and struggled to establish much momentum in the face of a game effort from Williams, before a break of 114 belatedly got him over the line.

Jack Lisowski held his nerve to sink seventh seed Ding Junhui in a deciding frame and set up a last-16 meeting with former champion Stuart Bingham.


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