United Kingdom

O’Sullivan through but Higgins out

Ronnie O’Sullivan won the last of his seven UK titles in 2018
Venue: York Barbican Dates: 23 November-5 December Coverage: BBC One, BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and app
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Record seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan cruised past Mark King 6-3 to reach the last 16 of the UK Championship in York.

O’Sullivan left King scoreless in the first two frames with breaks of 108 and 70 – and led 3-0.

King hit back to trail 4-3, only for O’Sullivan to add runs of 63 and 53 to progress into the next round.

Three-time UK champion John Higgins was upset 6-5 by China’s world number 26 Zhao Xintong.

Higgins was on the verge of victory when he led 5-3, but the Scot could not complete the job as 24-year-old Zhao reeled off three frames in a row to triumph.

Zhao showcased his scoring prowess with a century and four further breaks of 50 or more, which included and a composed 83 in the decider to close out the match.

Zhao said: “It was a great match. John is a legendary player and it is difficult to beat him.

“He gave me an easy chance in the last frame. I needed to finish it off and I did it.

Asked if he can go on and win the tournament, Zhao replied: “Yes I want it, I think I can do it.”

Higgins admitted: “I was nowhere near on it. I’m gutted.”

‘Lovely, beautiful’ seeing big names going out

Since winning the World Championship last year, O’Sullivan has had a disappointing 15 months by his own high standards, reaching just one semi-final this season on the back of losing five ranking finals last term.

And, although the 46-year-old opened with a century break and compiled five further breaks of 50 or more, he remained patient and was made to work for his opportunities.

O’Sullivan told BBC Two: “I am pleased to be through, Mark is a tough player so I just had to focus. I am trying, I have been playing exhibition snooker since the World Championship and that is not good enough for the nitty gritty.

“I haven’t got long now and this is one last effort to see how it goes. I am trying to take one ball at at a time. The result is irrelevant, I just want to apply myself.

“I never look at the draw, I have no interest in it. I don’t care who I play, but do I enjoy everything I do. I have fathomed a way that works for me. I enjoy how I have life at the moment.”

Asked about the big names that have exited early from the tournament, O’Sullivan replied: “I have a little chuckle to myself when I see them all getting bombed out. Lovely, beautiful.”

He will face former world champion Stuart Bingham or Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham in the next round.

Analysis

1991 world champion John Parrott on BBC Two:

“There has never been anyone better finishing games off, it is not an easy thing to have in your armoury. You can get embroiled in battles, but O’Sullivan gets the chance and finishes it off.”

1997 world champion Ken Doherty:

“O’Sullivan looks very good, stroking the ball in nicely, some good breaks and great long pots. He matched King in the safety department and was very patient.

“His concentration looked good, it can waver when you are looking at other matches, but he finished the match off. He never baulks at the winning line, he gets over it very easily.”

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