Ronnie O’Sullivan will play his 25th Masters quarter-finals when he locks horns with Barry Hawkins at Alexandra Palace on Thursday.
The seven-time champion faces the two-time runner-up in a repeat of the 2016 final, in which the Rocket reeled off 10 successive frames to claim his sixth title with a resounding 10-1 rout.
Fast forward eight years and O’Sullivan is now looking to win his 60th match at snooker’s most prestigious invitational event.
Although he could only sit and admire Ding Junhui’s magical 147 break, the world number one eventually prevailed a commanding 6-3 winner over his good friend in the opening round, with contributions of 127, 106, 93, 87 and 67 along the way.
O’Sullivan now aims to continue his dominant record over Hawkins, having won 17 of their 20 previous encounters – most recently a 4-0 whitewash at last year’s World Grand Prix – and reach his 15th Masters semi-final
Although, the Hawk knows what it takes to beat the Rocket at a major, having prevailed 13-12 in their thrilling second-round encounter at the 2016 World Championship.
Like O’Sullivan, he was also a 6-3 winner in the first round, taking advantage of an out-of-sorts Neil Robertson to secure his place in a sixth Masters quarter-final.
The reigning European champion subsequently avenged his 10-4 reverse against the Australian in the 2022 final, and would love to replicate that feat and bury the ghost of the 2016 showpiece by denying his rival the opportunity to chase a record-extending eighth title.
And Hawkins does boast a decent strike rate at this stage of the tournament having won three of his five previous quarter-finals, including knocking out Mark Selby – then looking to hold all three majors titles at once – with a 6-3 success in 2017.
The winner of this match will play either Shaun Murphy or Jack Lisowski in the Masters semi-finals.
Play gets under way at 1pm GMT on Thursday and will be contested over the best of 11 frames at Alexandra Palace.
18+ | T&Cs Apply | Geo restrictions may apply | Be Gamble Aware