Ronnie O’Sullivan steps up his pursuit of a record-equalling seventh World Championship title with a Last 16 show-down against Mark Allen at The Crucible.
O’Sullivan, an ever-present at The Crucible since 1993, made light work of a tricky opening tie against David Gilbert last weekend, defeating the 2019 semi-finalist 10-5 with three century breaks along the way.
That victory means he is now level with Stephen Hendry for the most match wins at The Crucible (70) and is through to the Second Round in Sheffield for the 26th time in 30 appearances.
O’Sullivan has claimed the World Grand Prix title this season and is back on top of the world rankings, having also reached the final of the European Masters in addition to a further two ranking Semi-Finals.
The 46-year-old has reached at least the Quarter-Final stage of seven of the ten ranking events he has competed in this season and appears in a relaxed mindset as he bids to create more history over the next fortnight.
Allen is making his 16th consecutive World Championship appearance but has historically struggled to produce his brilliant best form on the sport’s greatest stage.
The six-time ranking event winner reached the Semi-Finals back in 2009, defeating O’Sullivan en route, and has since made it to a further three Quarter-Finals, but has failed to progress beyond Round Two in nine of his last ten appearances.
The Antrim ace began the season superbly by finishing runner-up in the Championship League before going on to win the Northern Ireland Open on home soil in Belfast, ending a three-year wait for a ranking title.
He has also reached the Semi-Finals of the German Masters and is looking to retain his top 16 status for next season.
Allen opened up with a 10-6 victory over Scott Donaldson with a brace of centuries to his name and now faces a box office battle with O’Sullivan for the first time since their controversial meeting in the 2020 Tour Championship Quarter-Finals.
Allen prevailed 6-3 on that occasion, with the pair coming to blows after O’Sullivan accused ‘The Pistol’ of moving around whilst he was playing a shot. In his post-match interview, Allen then accused O’Sullivan of being “a bully”.
O’Sullivan has won six of their ten previous meetings, most notably the 2018 UK Championship final.
Their latest encounter gets under way from 10am BST on Friday April 22 for a maximum of eight frames, resuming at 7pm, before being played to a finish over the best of 25 frames from 2.30pm on Saturday.
Either reigning UK Champion Zhao Xintong or four-time Crucible semi-finalist Stephen Maguire will await the winner in the Quarter-Finals.
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