Ronnie O'Sullivan produced a sublime pot on the pink at the Championship League as he continued where he left off from winning his record-equalling seventh world title in Sheffield in May.
O'Sullivan made his competitive return to action following his 18-13 win over Judd Trump – a victory that saw him equal Stephen Hendry's Crucible haul from the 1990's – with a one-sided 3-0 triumph against world No. 99 Farkh Ajaib in his Group 1 opener at Leicester's Morningside Arena.
Each match is contested over a maximum of four frames with the player who tops the group reaching the last 32, but O'Sullivan needed only three frames to register three points in less than 45 minutes on Monday.
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The world No. 1 enjoyed breaks of 67, 54 and 65 as he showed no signs of rustiness with one pot in the opening frame particularly eye-catching as he slammed home a pink to a middle bag at pace before rolling in a difficult red to a centre pocket with ease.
"That was an outrageous pot," said Phil Yates in the commentary box. "If you didn't know what the intimidation factor was, that pink sums it up."
He continued his impressive form later on Monday with a 3-1 win over Alfie Burden and a 3-1 victory against Alexander Ursenbacher that saw him top the group courtesy of breaks of 56, 58 and 121 with the Swiss player rolling in a 105 in the second frame.
Ursenbacher finished second with two 3-1 wins against Burden and Ajaib respectively.
The Essex man last month opened his first snooker academy in Singapore, playing exhibition matches against UK champion Zhao Xintong and women's world champion Nutcharut Wongharuthai after challenge matches with old foes Hendry and Jimmy White in London.
O'Sullivan will join the 31 other group winners when the second group stage begins on Monday 25 July.
Jamie Jones hit breaks of 134 and 102 in winning Group 27 on seven points courtesy of a 3-1 win against Andres Petrov, a 3-0 win against David Lilley and a 2-2 draw with Sam Craigie.
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Four-time world champion Mark Selby has been drawn in Group 3 alongside Ben Woollaston, Zhang Jiankang and James Cahill and is due to begin his season on Thursday.
Trump is set to face Jamie Clarke, Sean O'Sullivan and Yisong Peng in Group 2 on Tuesday 19 July.
David Gilbert begins the defence of the title in Group 16 on Wednesday 20 July alongside Joe O'Connor and Zak Surety.
Latest Championship League group winners
- Group 24: Robert Milkins (Eng)
- Group 13: Aaron Hill (Ire)
- Group 4: Zhao Xintong (Chn)
- Group 31: Anthony Hamilton (Eng)
- Group 6: Michael Judge (Ire)
- Group 26: Chris Wakelin (Eng)
- Group 10: Luca Brecel (Bel)
- Group 29: Lu Ning (Chn)
- Group 1: Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng)
- Group 27: Jamie Jones (Wal)
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