Ronnie O’Sullivan is in line for his sixth Masters title after he dominated the opening session of Sunday’s final against Barry Hawkins.
Playing in his first major tournament in nine months, O’Sullivan was in impressive form at Alexandra Palace in London as he bounced back from losing the opening frame to lead 7-1 ahead of the evening session.
In their 10 previous matches Hawkins had won only once, in their first meeting during the Scottish Open in 2002.
But he took the lead after winning a scrappy opening frame in which both players passed up the opportunity to build a lead.
O’Sullivan had complained that his recent back problems had led to a level of performance in his semi-final that he was unhappy with but he levelled the final with a quick-fire 70 after a poor safety from Hawkins.
The best of the 40-year-old came through in the third when a break of 136 saw him take the lead for the first time.
The fourth frame was tighter and Hawkins missed a simple black to allow O’Sullivan to put together a lead and, despite the fact Hawkins then did well to clear the reds from the cushions he went on to miss a difficult yellow and O’Sullivan went on to win the frame with ease.
Hawkins just could not take his chances when they came his way and, after the mid-session interval, he passed up the opportunity to reduce the arrears as O’Sullivan let him in with a sloppy safety shot.
It was the five-time Masters winner who went on to open up a three-frame lead after some marvellous cueing – before a simple red was missed by Hawkins in the sixth to give himself more of a mountain to climb.
In what was becoming a regular occurrence in this final, Hawkins again let O’Sullivan take a frame he himself had the chance to win.
A missed red down the table presented a chance to O’Sullivan and he did not let it pass as he was starting to win both the comfortable and scrappy contests and leave Hawkins in the dust.
A break of 77 put O’Sullivan further ahead and, although Hawkins showed his class with a superb red potted off the green, he ended the session 7-1 down and in need of a miraculous comeback in the evening session.