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UK Championship 2023: Ronnie O’Sullivan claims comfortable victory

  • Seven-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan claims comfortable victory.

Seven-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed a comfortable 6-2 first-round victory over Anthony McGill in the UK Championship in York.

A 116 clearance and a half-century had given McGill an early 2-0 lead.

However, world number one O’Sullivan then took charge – compiling five half-centuries as he reeled off the next six frames to seal his victory.

Three-time UK champion John Higgins beat Joe O’Connor 6-3 in Tuesday afternoon’s other match.

Scotland’s Higgins will meet Australia’s Neil Robertson or China’s Zhou Yuelong in the next round.

O’Sullivan will face fellow Englishman Robert Milkins or Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the last 16.

“Against Anthony, it was not about playing well it’s about digging deep and out battling,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.

“These tournaments create more of a buzz and pressure. You can feel it and you generally get up for it a bit more.”

‘The Rocket’ has lift off

O’Sullivan arrived in York in a blaze of publicity, having said he could quit the sport, and spent part of last week on the red carpet – or more accurately, the green carpet – for the release of his documentary.

And he received a rapturous reception as he stepped into the auditorium for his encounter with McGill, in only his second tournament in Britain this season – 30 years to the day since he became the youngest winner of a ranking event with the first of his seven UK titles, aged 17.

But while McGill was able to establish a two-frame advantage, any questions around ‘The Rocket’ being undercooked were soon dismissed and he was able to go through the gears as McGill began to falter.

The Scot, who won their epic 2021 World Championship last-16 meeting 13-12, and who was playing with a carbon fibre cue and a glove to aid his cueing, repeatedly struggled with pots from distance.

That only acted as encouragement to O’Sullivan, who rattled in two breaks of 89 and enjoyed runs of 66 and 61 before taking the final frame with a 92.

Classy Higgins holds off O’Connor

Over on the adjacent table, Higgins showed his enduring class to race into a 4-1 lead against O’Connor with breaks of 66, 76 and 58.

But he was then forced to sit in his chair and watch as the Englishman reduced the deficit to 4-3 with runs of 67 and 83.

A pivotal eighth frame went to the four-time world champion, who constructed a magnificent 122 break after an O’Connor foul allowed him back to the table.

Higgins whose last ranking event title came early in 2021 at the Players Championship, and has since suffered some notable losses from winning positions, rounded off his win with a composed 66.

“I was happy with the way it finished because I have lost a few matches after being well in front this season and things obviously start to go through your mind,” Higgins said.

“All I was doing was just trying to keep my shoulders straight. It is difficult to get out of your mind sometimes so you just try to think positive and give off a good vibe.”

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