Ronnie O’Sullivan looked invincible as he produced one of snooker’s great sessions in building a 7-1 lead over Stuart Bingham at the Betfair World Championship.
Last night he had complained of feeling “tired and jaded” after seeing off Ali Carter in the second round, despite this being his first major tournament for a year.
Pity the man who faces a refreshed O’Sullivan then, because the weary 37-year-old still managed to dig out a vintage performance that saw Bingham almost whitewashed in this afternoon’s session.
The defending world champion ploughed in two centuries and five more breaks of over 50 as he took charge of the Crucible quarter-final against a shell-shocked Bingham.
He led 7-0 but Bingham avoided absolute annihilation by pinching the final frame of the session.
From the outset, it was destined not to be the world number eight’s day. He played a hapless safety shot that put O’Sullivan in for a frame-winning chance and breaks of 79 and 54 got the four-time champion off to a bright start.
The fearsome scoring continued, with runs of 111, 60, 87, 133 and 98 forcing Bingham to spend much of the match in his chair.
Bingham was as much a spectator as the paying visitors surrounding him for nearly the entire session, and his mother Maureen, in attendance on her 55th birthday, could not have enjoyed the spectacle.
There was thankfully for Bingham’s sake the consolation of the eighth frame, to ensure he will avoid the dreaded prospect of the Crucible’s first 13-0 defeat.
But beyond that there was no cause for any cheer for the man who was outscored by 733 points to 199.
O’Sullivan has given himself a realistic chance to finish the match in two sessions now, with a further eight frames scheduled for tomorrow’s morning session and nine pencilled in for the evening.
Considering he was playing a man in the form of his life, who posted crushing wins over Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Judd Trump on his way to winning the Premier League title this season, it was some statement from O’Sullivan.
Former world champion Ken Doherty said on the BBC: “He was fantastic.
“There’s nobody better to watch. It’s effortless and that’s the beauty of his talent.”
Six-time winner Steve Davis suggested O’Sullivan made it “look as easy as shelling peas”.
One factor to bear in mind is that O’Sullivan faced little resistance. Assuming he converts his six-frame cushion into victory, O’Sullivan would tackle Shaun Murphy or Judd Trump in the semi-finals, with both men, unlike Bingham, proven performers at the Crucible.
Chester’s Ricky Walden made a bright start to his quarter-final against Welsh qualifier Michael White as he moved 6-2 in front.
White is appearing at his first World Championship and has already seen off two-time champion Mark Williams and eccentric Thai player Dechewat Poomjaeng.
But the 21-year-old found it tough going against first-time Crucible quarter-finalist Walden and made a best break of only 40. Neath man Walden finished the session in style with a run of 113.