Ronnie O’Sullivan aims to book his place in 2024 World Open at the expense of Alfie Burden when they collide in the qualifying round in Barnsley on Tuesday.
Man of the moment O’Sullivan comes into the contest on the back of a prolific 14-match unbeaten run, having claimed the UK Championship, Masters and World Grand Prix titles over the past seven weeks.
The world number one is enjoying a remarkable spell of dominance at the age of 48 and appears to be showing no sign of relenting as he prepares to challenge for a record-breaking eighth World Championship title at The Crucible.
The Rocket has won 30 of his 33 matches contested so far this season, with only Zhang Anda (x2) and Lyu Haotian getting the better of him in ranking competition.
Less than 48 hours after recovering from 4-0 down to defeat Judd Trump 10-7 in the final of the World Grand Prix, O’Sullivan makes a swift return to action in a much lower-key setting at the Barnsley Metrodome.
Perhaps surprisingly, he has not been handed a wildcard to compete in the World Open and must therefore win a qualifying match in order to reach the main draw in Yushan from March 18-24.
Bidding to bring an end to O’Sullivan’s rampant winning run is fellow Londoner Burden – who first joined the professional ranks 30 years ago.
The 47-year-old finished runner-up to Jimmy White in last year’s World Seniors Championship at The Crucible and is a four-time ranking event quarter-finalist – most recently at the 2018 Scottish Open.
World number 98 Burden has won 15 of his 27 matches played so far this season but has not made it beyond the Last 64 of a ranking tournament.
Despite their vast number of years on tour, O’Sullivan and Burden have met just twice in professional competition, with the seven-time World Champion prevailing on both occasions – in the 2021 Northern Ireland Open and 2022 Championship League.
The match gets under way from 7pm GMT and will be contested over the best of nine frames.
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