The five-time champion returned on Wednesday to finish off a 10-3 victory over Craig Steadman, a 32-year-old from Manchester who endured a painful debut.
O’Sullivan was hurting too after earning his last-16 place, having started the match in a new pair of dress shoes which he discarded during Tuesday’s opening session due to the acute discomfort they were causing him.
He might have faced a fine of around €350 for briefly playing on without shoes, but because O’Sullivan was ready to accept any other pair of size eights offered his way, tournament officials decided there was no case of a dress code breach for the title favourite to answer.
Nigel Mawer, head of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association disciplinary department, confirmed to Press Association Sport that tournament organisers World Snooker decided O’Sullivan should not face a misconduct charge.
Ironically the tournament director, Mike Ganley, is the man whose shoes O’Sullivan borrowed and later poked fun at. Ganley is also the man O’Sullivan headbutted at the 1996 World Championship, which landed him with a €28,000 fine and suspended two-year ban.
”I got a pair of Mike Ganley’s stinky old shoes, and you know what – they felt great,“ O’Sullivan said on BBC Two.
Now the 39-year-old is hoping to draw the attention of a leading shoemaker, so he can avoid any further foot trouble. Earlier this season he broke his ankle while running in an Essex forest, and had to play at the UK Championship in soft footwear rather than the standard dress shoes.
O’Sullivan dug out a comfortable but old pair of dress shoes for Wednesday’s second session, as he converted a 7-2 overnight lead into victory.
Asked about the shoes in which he began the match, O’Sullivan said in his post-match press conference: “When I was buying them I was thinking, ’these don’t look right’. But I’m not a fashion kind of guy.
“If any top shoemakers feel like they want to come and sort me out with a new pair of shoes, send your boys down. I’m not going to say no.”
Borrowing shoes again from Ganley — son of late snooker referee Len Ganley — is not an option O’Sullivan is considering. “When I looked at them, I thought, ’what the hell?’,” O’Sullivan said. “But they were so comfortable it was like heaven.”
O’Sullivan launched the match against Steadman with a break of 104, and added runs of 61, 59, 54 and 75, before doing enough in a scrappy morning session on Wednesday to set up a shot at Matthew Stevens next.
Steadman said of O’Sullivan: “If he takes his shoes and socks off and plays with his feet, I’m not bothered. I’m sure he can do that as well.”
Joe Perry went close to beating O’Sullivan in the last 16 last year, and looked like easing through his first test this time after building an 8-1 lead over Chinese qualifier Zhang Anda.
Stevens swept through with a surprising 10-2 win over fellow Welshman Mark Williams, his conqueror in the 2000 final. Stevens is relishing a battle with O’Sullivan, and said: “I’m not afraid of Ronnie. If I play well hopefully I’ll give him a good game.”