Reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan makes winning start at The Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan launched his World Championship title defence with a 10-7 victory over debutant Pang Junxu on Saturday.
The Rocket, who is targeting an outright record eighth Crucible crown this year, made further history as he appeared in Sheffield for the 31st time – more than any other player.
Though suffering the effects of fatigue and illness, O’Sullivan snatched the opening frame on the pink on the way to establishing a commanding 5-0 lead.
Debutant Pang – runner-up at last month’s WST Classic – rallied to stop the rot with a top break of 133 helping reduce the deficit to 6-3.
The Rocket moved to the brink of victory by winning three of the first four frames in the evening session for a 9-4 lead.
Pang kept his faint hopes alive with successive runs of 78, 70 and 73 cutting the score to 9-7, but O’Sullivan eventually got over the line with 81.
Elsewhere, Neil Robertson hit a top break of 138 as he established a commanding 6-3 overnight lead against another Chinese debutant in Wu Yize.
The 2010 champion, who is making his 19th successive Crucible appearance, also had runs of 96, 80, 79 and 64, while his opponent recorded back-to-back centuries of 107.
Meanwhile, 2015 champion Stuart Bingham recovered from a slow start to lead 2019 semi-finalist David Gilbert by the same scoreline.
Despite opening with 108, Bingham trailed 3-1 as Gilbert hit back with 60, 90 and 121, but Ballrun responded by reeling off five successive frames to take control of the tie.
Luca Brecel is also 6-3 to the good against Ricky Walden with the Belgian on course to record his first victory at the Crucible in six attempts.
The Belgian was pegged back to 2-2 from 2-0 up by the 2013 semi-finalist, but won four of the next five frames to pull away once again.
However, despite hitting the tournament’s highest break so far, two-time finalist Ali Carter has work to do after falling 5-4 behind against debutant Jak Jones.
The Captain, who was runner-up to O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012, produced a sublime 143 total clearance in frame five, but runs of 75, 74, 65 and 60 helped the Welshman establish a slender overnight lead.
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World Snooker Championship 2023 Day One Scores
Saturday April 15
Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-7 Pang Junxu
Stuart Bingham 6-3 David Gilbert
Luca Brecel 6-3 Ricky Walden
Neil Robertson 6-3 Wu Yize
Ali Carter 4-5 Jak Jones
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