Job done for O'Sullivan
9:11pm Saturday 19th April 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Ronnie O'Sullivan moved a first step nearer the sixth world title that would give him equal footing with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon after a no-frills opening win against Robin Hull at the Crucible.
On day one of the Dafabet World Championship, O'Sullivan ploughed in an early total clearance of 124 before adding 69, 81, 60 and 90 and finishing with a 54 break as he won 10-4 against Finland's only professional.
Nothing about world number 122 Hull suggested he would give O'Sullivan a serious test. He may have beaten Peter Ebdon, a former nemesis of O'Sullivan, in the final qualifying round to earn a shot at the Dafabet World Championship title holder, but Ebdon is not the force he once was.
Hull had only one previous Crucible appearance behind him, when he bowed out in the first round in 2002. He has also played only sporadically since returning to the tour in 2011 after three years in retirement which was triggered by a life-threatening virus.
O'Sullivan's victory therefore was about a par performance, offering few genuine clues about the state of his game. There was little spectacular from the 38-year-old, who is bidding to complete a hat-trick of consecutive world titles, having turned over Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins in the last two finals.
The last to achieve three in a row was seven-time champion Stephen Hendry, whose streak of five from 1992 to 1996 remains the benchmark for dominance at Sheffield's famous theatre. Davis won each year from 1987 to 1989, while Reardon, before the tournament moved to its now-established home, was champion each year from 1973 to 1976, taking the title at three disparate venues in Manchester and once in Melbourne, Australia.
That is the kind of company O'Sullivan yearns to keep, although he disguises his ambition by stating he is happy just to be playing after having his career rejuvenated by a tie-up with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters that, two years in, is still flourishing.
"I'm just pleased to have got through," O'Sullivan said. "I don't really see there's a massive expectation on me. I'm just here to do a job and I go about it as professionally as I can. There's one out of the way and I just move on to the next."
O'Sullivan was watched by One Direction boy band singer Louis Tomlinson, and added: "I didn't fly tonight but I think he enjoyed it."
O'Sullivan also welcomed talk of Davis, Hendry and Jimmy White being offered tour wild cards by World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn. A final decision on the proposal will be made by Wednesday.
"I'll probably find myself in that position at some point," O'Sullivan said. "If it doesn't get pushed through I think it would be a crazy decision."
O'Sullivan would welcome Hendry back on the tour, too. The Scot is considering a return to competitive action, two years after retiring.
"If Stephen plays 70 per cent of what he can play then he can still win tournaments," O'Sullivan said.
"Whether he can get that form back, whether he has the desire and motivation to put the time in on the practice table - which he will have to do... I said to him the other night I don't know whether it's something I would relish. I'm finding it tough to do now."
Earlier, the 1997 world champion Ken Doherty kissed the theatre's carpet on his way into the arena to face Stuart Bingham and finished the session in touch at 5-4 behind. Doherty, 44, is the oldest man in the draw this year and had to come through qualifying to earn his place.
Scotland's Stephen Maguire, twice a World Championship semi-finalist, faces a fight on Sunday evening to stay in the tournament after slumping 6-3 adrift of Welshman Ryan Day.
Shaun Murphy was ahead in the fashion stakes, sporting a bold Gatsby-like suit, but the 2005 champion trailed on the scoreboard against Jamie Cope.
Despite making early breaks of 112, 87 and two runs to 70, Murphy let a 4-2 lead slip away to trail 5-4 overnight.
Carter leads Chinese debutant Xiao Guodong 5-4 after edging the final frame of the night in a close tussle, with their match concluding on Sunday afternoon.