Returning O’Sullivan has landmark in sight

Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Ronnie O'Sullivan.
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Ronnie O’Sullivan is relishing his return to snooker’s main arena at the Dafabet Masters.

The five-time world champion spent several months on the sidelines, in a self-imposed exile, after seeing Stuart Bingham win the Crucible title in Sheffield last May.

In a rare appearance, he lost in the qualifiers for the German Open last month, but last week the 40-year-old showed he will still be one of the favourites when the Masters cues off tomorrow.

O’Sullivan chalked up the 800th century break of a glittering career at the Championship League Snooker, and heads to Alexandra Palace in impressive form for a player who missed the first few months of the season for off-the-table reasons.

“I didn’t feel like I played that well but my scoring would suggest otherwise,” said O’Sullivan. “My focus was good, my mental approach was good and that is probably what held it together.

“My mental skills are good and that keeps me in the game these days, and my ability to score among the balls always gives me a chance.

“There are areas of my game that need improving if I am to dominate and win how I used to win, but maybe I should be just enjoying this new phase.

“It would be nice if I could bottle the scoring this week and take it to the Masters, but it is a different tournament, a different set-up. I am pleased to have had a few matches and I look forward to getting going in the Masters now.”

O’Sullivan opens up at the Masters – where he is chasing his sixth title – on Tuesday against Mark Williams. And the Essex potter admits he already has one eye on reaching the landmark of 1,000 century breaks – if he carries on playing for another three seasons.

He said: “800 is a nice milestone to get to 1,000 would be good but I will probably have to play for another three or four years to get that, but we will have a go,” said O’Sullivan, who holds the record for most centuries, having leapfrogged Stephen Hendry’s 775 total12 months ago.

Shaun Murphy opens the defence of his Masters title tomorrow afternoon when he faces Mark Allen, before Barry Hawkins plays Joe Perry and world champion Bingham tackles Sheffield-based Ding Junhui in the evening. John Higgins plays Liang Wenbo.