UK Championship: Ronnie O'Sullivan 'felt awful' but eases through to round two

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport at the York Barbican
Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O'Sullivan began the UK Championship 22 short of 1,000 century breaks in his career
Betway UK Championship
Venue: York Barbican Dates: 27 November-9 December
Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 1 December.

Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan says he "really, really struggled" with illness while advancing into the second round of the UK Championship with a 6-1 win over the 128th seed Luke Simmonds.

Simmonds settled impressively, taking the first frame with a break of 56.

But O'Sullivan, who is chasing a record seventh UK title, rattled off three frames, finishing with a break of 97 to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Back-to-back tons made it 5-1 and he closed out victory with a 77 break.

"I am not feeling well - I must be coming down with some sort of virus," said five-time world champion O'Sullivan. "At one point I was not even sure I would be able to get through - I feel absolutely awful.

"I could not focus on the ball and had to grind it out. It felt like one of the hardest matches I have ever had to play.

"It was really hard. I was really, really struggling and felt like I couldn't focus on the balls.

"Every shot felt like a black ball in the world final. My back hand was shaking and I didn't feel great."

Simmonds, a 38-year-old amateur from the Isle of Wight, had a chance to go 2-0 up after a bright start in front of a near-capacity crowd at the York Barbican.

But O'Sullivan edged a crucial safety exchange and, after winning a scrappy third frame when Simmonds broke down on 46, the tournament favourite seized control.

He edged closer to the magical 1,000 century mark - a feat never achieved by any player before - with a typically rapid 118 in frame five.

The 33-time ranking event winner backed that up with a break of 112, taking him to 980 career centuries, on his way to setting up a second-round tie against 1997 world champion Ken Doherty.

Elsewhere, former World Championship runner-up Barry Hawkins progressed with a 6-0 win over Jamie Clarke, while Sam Baird came back from 5-1 down to earn a sensational 6-5 victory over 2015 runner-up Liang Wenbo.

The morning session saw 13th seed Luca Brecel, 2003 winner Matthew Stevens and 2004 winner Stephen Maguire all go through.

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