Ronnie O’Sullivan steps up the defence of his Shanghai Masters title with a mouth-watering Quarter-Final against rival John Higgins on Thursday.
The fixture known as snooker’s ‘El Clásico’ sees the two multiple World Champions face off for the 73rd time in a rivalry dating back to 1994.
O’Sullivan is competing in his first event of the season, having opted out of participating in the Championship League and withdrawing from the recent European Masters on medical grounds.
The seven-time World Champion, who remains world number one, returns to the Shanghai Masters as reigning champion, having won the most recent staging of the event back in 2019.
In fact, O’Sullivan is unbeaten here since 2016 and is eyeing a fourth consecutive crown in addition to his first triumph in 2009.
Although a ranking title eluded him last season, both of his tournament wins came in invitational events at the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions.
O’Sullivan began his campaign with a 6-3 win over Essex rival Ali Carter on Tuesday and he now faces Higgins for the first time since the 2022 World Championship.
Higgins also knows what it takes to reign supreme in Shanghai, having done so in 2012, and the Scot began the season strongly by reaching the Semi-Finals of the European Masters last month.
Higgins whitewashed Chinese wildcard Deng Haohui 6-0 in his opener, before overcoming Kyren Wilson 6-3, and has made three centuries so far this week.
The four-time World Champion picked up the Championship League invitational title last season but endured an otherwise disappointing season which ended in a Quarter-Final exit at The Crucible.
Though O’Sullivan prevailed 17-11 in their Semi-Final meeting in Sheffield last year en route to securing a record-equalling seventh world title, Higgins has won five of their last seven contests.
Their latest show-down gets underway from 7am BST and will be contested over the best of 11 frames, with either Mark Selby or Judd Trump awaiting the winner in the Semi-Finals.
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