• World Snooker Championship

Rocket Ronnie shines on Crucible return

ESPN staff
April 20, 2013
Ronnie O'Sullivan is the defending champion © PA Photos

Reigning world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan made a positive start to the defence of his title on the first day of the 2013 World Championship, enjoying a 10-4 victory over Marcus Campbell to advance to the second round.

Four-time champion O'Sullivan was making his first competitive appearance since May 2012 - when he last left the Crucible. Rarely has a player's presence been so eagerly awaited at the sport's showpiece event as fans roared him back to the baize.

After finishing Saturday afternoon's session with a 7-2 lead over Campbell, O'Sullivan continued where he left off, taking the opening frame of the evening session by knocking in the first century of the match when clearing up with a 102 break.

And the reigning champion then moved within one-frame of victory with a fine display of accurate potting and cue-ball control, hitting a 90 break to move 9-2 ahead.

If Campbell needed a little luck, he duly received it in the 12th frame; a missed yellow from O'Sullivan allowed Campbell to close it out and reduce the deficit to 9-3.

And Campbell soon pulled another frame back after the champion conceded when needing a snooker, making it 9-4 in O'Sullivan's favour at the interval.

But it was O'Sullivan who wrapped up victory in the first frame after the break. With the black, pink and blue balls out of position, 'Rocket' produced a fine 40 break to take a commanding lead. When Campbell could only reply with 18, a safety battle ensued before O'Sullivan potted the baulk colours.

Campbell decided to continue to look for the snooker, but O'Sullivan wrapped up victory on the pink and advanced through to the second-round for the 18th time at the Crucible.

"It was nice to be back," said O'Sullivan. "The journey has been exciting ever since I announced that I was coming back and playing. It gave me something to do. I have spent the last five weeks preparing so the journey has been enjoyable, it is like the icing on the cake playing in an event like this.

"I hit the balls okay. In general my play was not as slick and sharp as what I would have liked. That is all to have been expected when you have not played for a year. You lose that tightness, you need to get in there and compete. I need to get through matches but ultimately it is just a bit of fun for me."

Michael White enjoyed a bright start to his Crucible debut, holding a 5-4 lead over two-time World Champion Mark Williams. White raced into a 4-1 lead with breaks including breaks of 87 and 67, before Williams fought back to 4-4. The 21-year-old White took the last frame, with play due to resume on Sunday afternoon.

Earlier on Saturday, Ricky Walden posted an early contender for the tournament's highest break, chalking up a run of 140 against Michael Holt. Walden reached the mid-session interval at 4-0 and will return on Sunday with an 8-1 advantage.

John Parrott is the only player to have recorded a whitewash in the final tournament, beating Eddie Charlton 10-0 in 1992, and Holt avoided that scenario when he finally got on the board for 6-1, but his stay in the tournament is surely heading for an early end.

In Saturday's afternoon session, Shaun Murphy held for a 5-4 overnight lead over Martin Gould. Former World Champion Murphy had it all to do as his opponent opened up a 2-0 lead, but 'The Magician' hit back to level up before the interval.

After the break, Murphy opened with a break of 112 to lead for the first time, but Gould struck back with to level before the 2005 champion edged into a 5-3 lead. Gould clinically wrapped up the last frame of the session to keep the gap down to a single frame.

Barry Hawkins moved into a 6-3 lead over debutant Jack Lisowski, which he will take overnight. An 84 break saw 21-year-old Lisowski take the opening frame, but Hawkins hit back with three consecutive frames to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Lisowski took full advantage of a missed brown to close the gap to 3-2, but Hawkins won three frames on the spin for the second time of the session, hitting breaks of 97, 100 and 66 to take control. The last frame descended into a battle of safety, which Lisowski edged to close the deficit.

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