World Snooker: O'Sullivan wraps up emphatic win
World Snooker Championship
- Crucible Theatre
- 16 April-2 May
- Live on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC One HD, Red Button and BBC Sport website with results and reports on Radio 5 Live
Ronnie O'Sullivan wasted no time in brushing aside qualifier Dominic Dale 10-2 to set up a mouth-watering second-round clash with Shaun Murphy.
Much of the damage had been done in the first session, with the 'Rocket' twice missing out on maximum 147s and producing his 100th Crucible ton.
The three-time champion found some fine touch with a 115 and 96 and his lowest break in the last six frames was 73.
Dale looked shocked as O'Sullivan wrapped it up with a fine 100 break.
"I scored pretty well and made a few breaks, didn't miss many easy balls and enjoyed being out there as much as I have since I've been coming here," O'Sullivan told BBC Sport.
"All credit to Dominic for getting through the qualifying rounds and having a good season. It takes two to make a game, but I'm pleased to get the win."
O'Sullivan lost in the first round of four successive tournaments prior to the Crucible but six-time champion Steve Davis is delighted to see him return to form.
"He's got his mind on the game and that's good news for everyone" BBC commentator Davis said. "Ronnie didn't let Dominic off the hook at all. Regardless of his state of mind before, it's what you do on the table. Ronnie is great when he gets to the table, and an optimistic O'Sullivan is a very dangerous animal."
Dale, returning to the Crucible for the first time in seven years, was in typically smiley mood throughout but apart from a 47 and 56 at the start of this encounter, the 39-year-old was rarely given a chance.
Despite a spluttering start, O'Sullivan eased up through the gears and finished off in sensational form with two centuries and effortless break-building to secure his first match win at a major tournament for six months.
The anticipation had been huge in the build-up to this clash with many wondering if O'Sullivan would turn up at all following his threat to withdraw less than a fortnight ago.
The 35-year-old Chigwell player admitted his decision was based on feeling traumatised and unhappy at the table and in Monday's opening four frames he did not look like a man fired up to battle for a fourth world crown.
A break of 78 was as good as it got and he increasingly looked vulnerable with Welshman Dale, based in Vienna and ranked 33, hitting back to level at 2-2.
Arriving at Sheffield without a single major match win since clinching the Premier League title in November, and having suffered first-round defeats in his last four tournaments, suggested that any fireworks from O'Sullivan could be in short supply.
However, the 2001, 2004 and 2008 champion, who has seen his world ranking slide to 10, finally turned on the style to the delight of the packed Crucible arena and blew Dale away, with five consecutive frames putting him firmly in the driving seat at 7-2.
The three-time world champion twice missed out on maximum breaks, with the best chance coming to a surprising halt with 12 reds and 12 blacks in the pockets.
And despite the failure to compile his fourth Crucible 147, the Essex star surged on and ended the first day with a 113 - his 100th Crucible ton - and a 78.
A swift response on Tuesday was crucial for Dale, who has won two major titles, the Grand Prix in 1997 and the Shanghai Masters four years ago.
He had failed to capitalise on several opportunities in the first session and apart from the odd failed long pot, Dale rarely made it to the table as his opponent produced a near vintage display, starting with a run of 115 in the opening frame.
He even attempted a double yellow when on 96 and a breathtaking 100 secured a very welcome victory for both his fans and himself.
Dale revealed that he had a motivational chat with O'Sullivan at the end of the match.
"I've known Ronnie a long, long time," the 39-year-old said. "We go back to our amateur days when we were both about 12. We played in the World Amateur together in Thailand in '91.
"We all know he's had a few problems leading up to this and tried to withdraw - I wish he had done - so I looked him in the eye at the end and just said: 'Ron, listen, there are only 13 days left of this. Give it your best shot. You looked fantastic out there and you are more than capable of winning this.' He said: 'Yeah, I will."
BBC commentator Willie Thorne backed O'Sullivan to go all the way in Sheffield if he can continue his sizzling form.
"Those last six frames were amazing," said Thorne. "Left-handed, right-handed, with the rest, standing on one leg - it doesn't matter sometimes with Ronnie, does it?
"I'm sure this packed Crucible audience have absolutely loved this performance from him, that was fabulous. On this performance he can win the tournament."