Ronnie O’Sullivan ended a three-year wait for a win over Judd Trump by prevailing 6-3 in the opening round of the 2022 Players Championship.
O’Sullivan had lost each of his last three meetings with Trump since a dramatic 10-9 triumph in the 2019 Tour Championship Semi-Finals, but ended that run in style with a virtually flawless display in Aldersley on Tuesday.
The reigning World Grand Prix champion fired in a trademark century break plus a further three breaks of 80+ as he set up a Quarter-Final show-down with Neil Robertson.
“I’m just pleased to get the win,” O’Sullivan told ITV Sport. “It’s a good tournament to play in and you don’t want to go out in the First Round.
“I’ve got a nice easy match against Neil Robertson in the next round, so can’t wait!
“It was a good atmosphere, a packed audience and we tried to put on a match for them.
“I’m always tinkering [with cue actions], they should change my nickname from The Rocket to The Tinkerer because I can’t help it!
“I just have to, I’m not that I’m changing my cue action, it’s just that I’m always fiddling about with stuff.
“I’m not blessed with a great technique like Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Judd or Ding, I have to kind of search for it a little bit.
O’Sullivan set the tone for a high quality contest by taking the opening frame with a break of 90, before Trump levelled thanks to a 53 break.
O’Sullivan overturned a 52-point deficit with a break of 83 to regain the upper-hand, before adding a clinical break of 99 to move two clear at the interval.
Trump produced a break of 69 after the restart to stay in touch, but only for O’Sullivan to hit back with a 62 in frame six to lead 4-2.
A 55 break proved decisive for the world number three in frame seven to trail by one again, but O’Sullivan piled in a crowd-pleasing clearance of 127 before closing out the win with a 52 break in the ninth.
“I didn’t really do that much wrong, to be honest,” admitted Trump. “Ronnie played brilliant and when he plays well you have to play your absolute best.
“I didn’t play that badly, I didn’t make that many mistakes, he was just too good.
“When someone as good as Ronnie plays well, you’re going to struggle and you just go away and come back another time.
“Him and John Higgins, for me, are in their own little world when they play well and I’ve beaten him [O’Sullivan] the last three times so I always knew there was going to be a backlash at some point.”
Elsewhere, Ricky Walden continued his terrific resurgence by defeating Northern Ireland Open champion Mark Allen 6-2.
Walden led 5-1 without making a half century, and though Allen stopped the rot in frame seven, Walden closed out the win with a break of 74 to set up a Quarter-Final clash with Mark Williams on Wednesday.
Barry Hawkins pulled off an impressive 6-3 win over recent UK Championship and German Masters winner Zhao Xintong in the afternoon session.
Hawkins opened up a 3-1 lead with breaks of 63, 91, and 94 before Zhao pegged back with a break of 90 after the interval.
Hawkins edged frame six before Zhao added a break of 62 to trail 4-3, but successive breaks of 71 and 50 sealed the deal for the Masters finalist.
Yan Bingtao put the disappointment of his thrashing in the German Masters final last weekend behind him by defeating David Gilbert 6-4.
Yan, Players Championship runner-up in 2020, started strong with back-to-back breaks of 100 and 80 before Gilbert halved the deficit with a 54 break.
Yan then reeled off three consecutive frames with breaks of 66, 135 and 123, but Gilbert mounted a spirited fightback by replying with three straight frames of his own.
Breaks of 83 and 75 helped Gilbert back to within one of the Chinese youngster, but Yan dug deep to produce a decisive break of 59 to get over the line.
Players Championship 2022 Day Two Results
Tuesday February 8
Zhao Xintong 3-6 Barry Hawkins
David Gilbert 4-6 Yan Bingtao
Mark Allen 2-6 Ricky Walden
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 Judd Trump