The manner of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s victory over Marcus Campbell in the first round of the China Open yesterday was a kind of microcosm of his career.
He shifted from being maddeningly frustrating to sublimely brilliant as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
He should have lost. Campbell had a great chance to lead 4-0 but missed a pink and O’Sullivan seemed to rediscover his enthusiasm for winning. He doesn't look well but can win tournaments even when not at full fitness.
Ronnie splits opinion in a way I find pretty curious as I neither hate him nor think he’s a living deity. But nobody can deny his box office appeal. In every match there is something to keep audiences glued to the screen and this is why he remains the biggest draw in the sport.
Today he plays Mark Williams, who hasn’t beaten him in a world ranking event for ten years.
I suppose this has to end at some time but whenever these two play the match oozes with mutual respect and perhaps there is too much on Williams’s part.
He believes O’Sullivan is still the best player in the game and maybe this affects his own mental preparation.
Williams was so convinced that O’Sullivan wouldn’t travel to Beijing that he stated on Twitter he would bare his backside in Burton’s shop window if he did.
The good news for those wishing to be spared exposure to the Welshman’s posterior is that Burton’s themselves may not be so willing to comply with this wager.
Away from all this, Ali Carter completed what must be a morale boosting 5-4 win over Dominic Dale.
Despite not playing competitively for a while due to illness, Carter started with a century. His top 16 place is under threat and his enthusiasm for snooker low. But winning tends to remind a player of why they chose to play the game in the first place.
Carter now faces Lu Ning, the 18 year-old wildcard who produced a sensational display yesterday to beat Shaun Murphy 5-2.
Forget the rights and wrongs of wildcards, which have been endlessly debated, not least by me: this was a world class performance to stand with any other in this tournament.
From 2-2, Lu made two successive centuries and finished off the clinching frame in a single visit of 68. He demonstrated poise, guts and panache. Murphy sportingly led the applause at the end.
China has been waiting for a bona fide challenger to Ding Junhui. Without getting too carried away, it may have found one.
Today promises to be a thrill ride full of big names and potentially brilliant snooker.
It starts with O’Sullivan v Williams and Judd Trump against Stuart Bingham. Later, Neil Robertson plays Stephen Hendry and Mark Selby takes on Ding Junhui. World champion John Higgins doesn’t even get a TV table for his match with Peter Ebdon.
This is shaping up to be one of the best tournaments of the season.
EDIT: Mark Selby has withdrawn because of a neck injury. It is understood Selby doesn't want to exacerbate the injury ahead of the World Championship.