World Championship 2017: Ronnie O'Sullivan takes commanding 6-2 lead over Shaun Murphy
|Venue: The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 15 April – 1 May|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC Red Button, Connected TVs, online and app.|
Five-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan was in majestic form as he took a 6-2 lead in his World Championship second-round match against Shaun Murphy.
Needing 13 frames to win, he raced into a 3-1 lead with breaks of 91, 75 and a magnificent 128, and maintained his relentless pace after the mid-session interval.
Murphy was unable to withstand the pressure, meaning O’Sullivan is a strong favourite to clinch a quarter-final tie against Ding Junhui or Liang Wenbo at the Crucible.
In dismissing O’Sullivan’s controversial claims that he had been bullied by snooker chiefs, Murphy added further spice to an already uneasy relationship and O’Sullivan responded in blistering fashion.
The Rocket’s domination means world number five Murphy could face defeat inside two sessions for the second time against O’Sullivan at the Crucible, having lost 13-3 in the quarter-finals in 2014.
Nottingham’s Murphy, the 2005 champion, had scored a superb 84 of his own to level at 1-1 and had chances in frames five and six before clinching an error-seven, tension-filled seventh frame on the black.
But O’Sullivan, 41, finished off with a superb 74 to remain on course for a sixth world title and 29th ranking title.
Meanwhile, Barry Hawkins made light work of Leicester’s Tom Ford in the final first-round match to be completed.
The 2013 runner-up led 7-2 overnight and although Ford won the opening frame, Hawkins looked untroubled and in good form to secure a last-16 meeting with Scotland’s Graeme Dott.
BBC Radio 5 live’s George Riley on the O’Sullivan v Murphy rivalry
The bottom line is that although there’s great professional respect between these two superstar players, they don’t particularly like each other.
That comes down to a spectacular clash in personalities. Shaun is very much the eloquent, thoughtful, considered company man who will probably be involved with the governing body one day.
Ronnie is the unpredictable enigma who will never be anything other than his own man. Murphy clearly thinks O’Sullivan’s claims of bullying by the game’s authorities are nonsense and said as much. That will have really wound Ronnie up. He was prowling the length of the Crucible corridors as they awaited their introductions into the arena.
I walked past O’Sullivan and he had that look of channelled fury in his eyes that scares you. You could tell he wanted to hammer Murphy.