Ronnie O’Sullivan has won 23 of the 71 frames he needs to capture a fifth world title so still has a long way to go but the manner in which he clinched victory over Ali Carter last night makes him the man to beat.
The old O’Sullivan swagger returned and he put on a show. This is the sprinkling of stardust the circuit has been missing.
The season may yet end rather like that infamous series of Dallas when Bobby Ewing, who had been killed off the previous year, returned in the shower, thus rendering the previous 12 months irrelevant.
The truth is, nobody stepped up and grasped the mantle when O’Sullivan was gone. All the ranking titles were shared around equally between a group of top players but the Rocket’s shadow had never gone away.
He has to beat Stuart Bingham to reach the semi-finals. Bingham is not a tortured soul when it comes to snooker. Far from it: he loves it more than is possibly healthy.
He beat O’Sullivan in the 2010 UK Championship but has lost their four other meetings. I was impressed by how Bingham attacked in the final session against Mark Davis and tried to win the match rather than trying not to lose it.
Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy should make many a mouth water. These are two players who attack the balls and neither lacks in confidence or would fear playing O’Sullivan.
I expect this match to feature either player dominating for spells, winning a run of frames before the momentum shifts. Trump looks to be playing as well as he has since he won the International Championship last November. Murphy has kept his powder dry all campaign but maybe this is the one for him. It will surely be close.
Michael White is the only qualifier to reach the quarter-finals. But it’s not true to say he has nothing to lose. He does: the match.
White, 21, has come this far and is not just ‘in it for the experience.’ He wants to win the title. Ricky Walden stands in his way.
Walden came through a nervy one last night against Robert Milkins and there is pressure on him as favourite, although the fact he has won two ranking titles points to his ability in big matches.
Ding Junhui toughed his way through against Mark King and will surely have a more free flowing match with Barry Hawkins, who remains a dangerman and one not to be under rated.