Ronnie O’Sullivan today locks horns with Graeme Dott, the Scotsman he beat last May in the Embassy World Championship final at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
The Rocket fought back from 5-0 down in the World Championship to beat Dott 18-8 and is still the player to beat this season, starting with the opening ranking event of the year – the Totesport Grand Prix at Preston’s Guild Hall.
O’Sullivan has beaten Mark Davis (5-2) and Joe Swail (5-1) en route to this year’s last 16, while Dott, a former British Open runner-up, has defeated Ryan Day (5-4) and Welshman Dominic Dale (5-2) to leave himself a mouth-watering showdown.
However, against Dale there was not a single spectator watching the match. Dott can be guaranteed a much bigger crowd this time around.
“Three people wandered in, but they must have been lost because they went away again,” said Dott. “At least against Ronnie there will be a full house, so I will be able to enjoy it more. There should be more of an atmosphere. I am not looking at it as a chance to get revenge."
On the day he was named Player of the Year by the Snooker Writers’ Association, O’Sullivan did not attend his press conference after beating Swail, complaining of a chest infection.
However, on the table he has shown flashes of the form which carried him to the world title in such commanding fashion.
Meanwhile seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry was forced to battle for his place in the last 16 yesterday, beating Gloucester’s Robert Milkins 5-3.
But the people’s champion, Jimmy White, failed to join his old foe in the third round when he was edged out by local favourite Ian McCulloch 5-4.