Ronnie O’Sullivan won all three of his group matches 3-0 to advance to the Group Winners’ phase of Matchroom.Live Championship League at Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes.
The Rocket proved class is permanent as he topped Group 10 with comfortable wins over Kishan Hirani, Michael Georgiou and Chris Wakelin, despite not having played since February.
On table two, Tom Ford won Group 15 with 3-0 victories over Ian Burns and Mike Dunn and a 3-1 success against Robert Milkins, in what was the decisive match of the group.
O’Sullivan opened the day’s play with a 112 in the first frame of a 3-0 win over Hirani. The same result against Georgiou meant that a win over Wakelin – who had drawn with Hirani and defeated Georgiou – would launch The Rocket into the next round.
Wakelin could advance himself with a win, but O’Sullivan wasn’t giving much away. A half chance became a 44 to win the first and breaks of 97 and 93 sealed top spot in the group for the five-time World Champion.
“I haven’t played since February,” said O’Sullivan. “I played the semi-finals of the Welsh Open and you can’t really count the Shoot-Out as it’s only a frame. I did a couple of exhibitions but other than that I’ve only played for about four or five hours last week but it just shows you probably don’t need the practice!
“The moustache is in homage to Willie Thorne; Willie had the moustache but no hair, I’ve got the moustache but no hair.”
Ford, who will join Liang Wenbo in Group D of the next stage, admitted he was unsure of his form coming into the event: “I played well today,” said the Leicester potter. “Obviously people had chances against me because we are all a bit rusty. I came into it not expecting to do well because I’ve not been practising that much, but we are all in the same boat. But when you don’t have too much pressure on you to play well you can play a bit better than you think.
“I got in the balls earlier in the first two frames against Rob. It was going to be a difficult match anyway because he’s a good player, and he had played the previous match whereas I was a bit cold coming on. Fortunately, Rob missed a ball – he said because his tie got in the way – and I was glad to get over the line.
“The venue, the hotel, the staff, the organisers, everybody has been brilliant. It is better than I expected it was going to be. I expected it to be good and very professional but it has exceeded.”
Matchroom.Live Championship League continues on Saturday with Stuart Bingham, Ricky Walden, Jordan Brown and Jamie Clarke in Group 1 action on table one. Jimmy Robertson, Ben Woollaston, Liam Highfield and Thor Chuan Leong feature on table two in Group 8.
Live scoring can be found at www.wst.tv. Group fixtures, results, standings and details of how to watch can be found at https://championshipleaguesnooker.co.uk/.