World Snooker Championship 2021 - Ronnie O'Sullivan finds best form with win over Mark Joyce.
Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan started slowly against world number 46 Mark Joyce at the Crucible. The first session contained few moments of genuine quality as the two exchanged a litany of errors, but O'Sullivan returned in the second session to wrap up the win with ease, starring with a hat-trick of centuries.
'Hat-trick of centuries!' - O'Sullivan seals victory in style
An impressive 124 break left him two frames from the next round, with that break being O'Sullivan's 23rd consecutive match in which he scored a century, and the 27th consecutive year he hit at least 100.
'Finally arrived!' - O'Sullivan moves through the gears to notch first century of Worlds
O'Sullivan then hit an even better 137 to leave him on the cusp of victory, before completing a hat-trick of centuries with a break of 112 to finish in some of his best form this year.
It is just the eighth time in history at the Crucible that a player has hit three centuries in a row.
'The great man is flowing!' - Watch Ronnie O'Sullivan's full 137 break
O'Sullivan will now face the winner of the match between Anthony McGill and Ricky Walden.
In the other late game David Gilbert was in sensational form as he opened up a commanding 7-2 lead against close friend Chris Wakelin.
Gilbert, a previous semi-finalist at the Crucible opened up in good form with breaks of 60 and 132.
While Wakelin got on the board Gilbert was unstoppable, hitting two further half-centuries and two more tons.
First Session report
O'Sullivan led Joyce 6-3 after a fascinating and error-strewn first session at the World Championship.
Neither defending champion O'Sullivan nor his opponent could find their rhythm as the two faltered their way through nine frames that saw no centuries and only a handful of moments of real quality.
'I can see a mark on it' – Ronnie asks for cue ball to be changed after one shot
The defending champion then edged a cagey opening frame thanks to an outrageous fluke on the red, putting an end to a long exchange of safeties which O'Sullivan eventually ended with a stunning green to brown.
But the underdog bounced back after an unsettled O'Sullivan fouled on the black, letting Joyce back to the table to string together a run of 58 to level the match.
It was Joyce's turn to falter in the third frame, missing a black off its spot to let O'Sullivan back to hit a break of 63 and regain the lead.
O’Sullivan makes huge fluke during opening frame
And despite exchanging a litany of errors in the opening three frames, O'Sullivan gave us a glimpse of his best after sinking a long red into the bottom left with the white glued to the cushion. A run of 58 all but sealed the frame and O'Sullivan was 3-1 up when Joyce missed a difficult black.
Joyce reduced the deficit in the fifth frame with a smart run of 66, with O'Sullivan conceding the frame rather than go searching for snookers. But the Rocket restored his two-frame lead after Joyce missed a routine blue in the next, allowing his opponent to sink a half ton and go 4-2 up.
But the world number 46 refused to let the world champion run away with the match, again pegging him back with an impressive long red after O'Sullivan missed a black.
Neither player could find their rhythm and could hardly be separated in the eighth frame. Joyce left an easy red over the jaws of the pocket, but O'Sullivan was unable to capitalise as he fouled when trying to split the reds on a pink.
Joyce couldn't quite see off the frame, missing a routine black on the spot, but remarkably O'Sullivan responded by missing the brown into the left middle. With O'Sullivan trailing, a fine snooker won him 10 points before the Rocket eventually sank the blue, via a majestic double, pink and black to steal the frame in sensational style.
O'Sullivan breezed through the final frame of the session after Joyce potted the cue ball off the pink. Both players looked keen to leave the Crucible and regroup after a rollercoaster session that sees the defending champion hold a three-frame lead.
Elsewhere, there was nothing to separate Yan Bingato and Martin Gould as they finished their first session with four frames apiece.
Yan managed five half centuries while Gould bested the lot from the two opening matches with the first century of the tournament.
Neil Robertson moved three frames ahead of Liang Wenbo after moving to a 6-3 lead in their first session.
There were eight fifty-plus breaks in total, with both players in decent form, but Robertson will be disappointed not to have a greater advantage after being 5-1 up at one stage. Wenbo still has a chance after a late rally, crowned by a 126 break in the ninth frame.
Stephen Maguire trails Jamie Jones 5-4 after their first session, which was notable for just one big-scoring break, with Maguire going 2-0 up with a 51 score. Thereafter the two traded scrappy efforts with little to separate the pair.