Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins earn bonus day in Crucible marathon
Ronnie O’Sullivan – chasing a record eighth Crucible crown – and John Higgins have been coming to this iconic theatre for the last four decades, but the Class of ‘92 duo are still setting the standards in the game.
O’Sullivan thrashed Iran’s Hossein Vafaei 13-2, securing his 21st Crucible quarter-final in the process, to win inside two sessions and earn an extra day’s rest before he plays Luca Brecel on Tuesday.
And four-time world champion Higgins also earned a bonus day off, after his 13-2 victory over Kyren Wilson on Sunday night negated the need for Monday afternoon’s third session.
O’Sullivan’s match with Vafaei had generated a media build-up usually reserved for a boxing bout, with some eye-raising comments.
But it was the defending world champion who let his cue do the talking inside the arena, cruising to victory in a one-sided contest to earn a free Sunday – and shrugging off the pre-match posturing.
“It’s not like I take comments personally, I’ve probably had five or six people saying something over my career that has just inspired me to prove to myself that I can still play the game,” said O’Sullivan. “I play between 50 and 100 matches a year and I’ve got to beat everyone, there’s no point getting fixated with one player and what he did. I don’t say anything to him. That little black book is locked up in my mind and just kind of helped me.
“I have been going for a long time. I love the lifestyle. I don’t play snooker for financial reasons, I play it because I enjoy it. It brings joy to the friends who come and support me, and the people watching at home get excited. So I just keep showing up. I’m looking forward to another match at the Crucible. Luca is phenomenal player with amazing talent and he is always getting better.”
Higgins’ demolition of Wilson means the Scottish cueman is in the Crucible quarter-finals for the 17th time in his career.
The damage was done in the opening session – which Higgins emerged from 8-0 in front – after three century breaks and three more over 50.
And while Wilson won two frames in Sunday evening’s second session, it simply delayed the inevitable.
“I am over the moon just to beat Kyren, but to beat him with a session to spare I would never have believed that was possible,” Higgins said.
“I felt as if I could just play there all day. It felt really good, and you do not get that many times here.
“It was amazing to be 8-0 and it was in my mind to just share the session four-all and be 12-4 in front going into the third session, but it is a bonus winning it, I now get a day off.
“I have been feeling as if this has been coming for the past month, that I could go on a run of breaks, and that is what you need to do here because I am going to come up against that sooner rather than later.”
Higgins next faces either Mark Selby or Gary Wilson on Tuesday. Selby is bidding to regain the title he last claimed two years ago, and he won the final four frames of the session to lead 10-6.
Chinese debutant Si Jiahui is just two frames from a quarter-final spot as he takes an 11-5 overnight lead over Robert Milkins.
Si, 20, who is based at Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield, knocked out Shaun Murphy in the opening round.
Jak Jones continued his dream Crucible debut with a 13-7 defeat of world No 6 Neil Robertson.
The world No 52 – guaranteed £50,000 prize money, the biggest payday of his career – faces Mark Allen in Tuesday’s quarter-finals.
Allen, himself, was in impressive form, beating Stuart Bingham 13-4.
Anthony McGill only needs two frames to move through to the quarter-finals after establishing a 11-5 advantage against Jack Lisowski.