RONNIE O’SULLIVAN breezed into the quarter-finals of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace on Tuesday night with another crushing victory over Robert Milkins.

The Rocket marched into the arena to the sounds of a Chinese motivational song in Cantonese called ‘A man should better himself’.

And reigning and five-time world champion O’Sullivan certainly looked fired up for the encounter, running away from world No13 Milkins and claiming a 6-1 victory.

It was not quite the whitewash inflicted on the same opponent five weeks previously at the UK Championship, when Milkins failed to get on the scoreboard.

But it was not far off. The 37-year-old Milkins, playing in his first Masters and appearing totally overawed by the occasion and the partisan 1,500 sell-out crowd, had chances in almost every frame but crumbled and slumped to a 5-0 deficit.

He punched the air in mock delight after getting on the board and preventing a ‘double bagel’ against the four-time Masters winner – but it was simply delaying the inevitable.

O’Sullivan admitted afterwards he had missed the Masters during his sabbatical last year, and that coming to watch a match with a friend 12 months ago had helped drive him back into the sport at the Crucible.

November’s Champion of Champions winner O’Sullivan said: “I felt sorry for Rob out there, it is a big event, it was his debut, there was a big crowd who were pretty vocal and it made for a tough first match in the Masters.

“You get on top of any player and you make it very hard for them, they are human and will feel they have to make something happen. You exert pressure and you get chances.

“I played better tonight than I have been in the past few weeks. Sometimes having the crowd is harder, I can be better with my back to the wall having a point to prove to everyone. There can be added pressure, not everywhere is like London and it is my home event, but you have to get your head around it.

“It was good to see Ronnie Wood and Damien Hirst and Jimmy White here supporting me. Ronnie Wood often refs for me and Jimmy White, he has some white gloves he uses to pick the balls out of the pocket. He has a go at Damien Hirst for not having them.

“I missed this event last year, and to be honest it was a catalyst for making me want to come back at the world championship.”

Milkins said: “It was a nightmare to be honest, and I think the occasion got to me. I was thinking about the 6-0 at the UK from about the second frame onwards.

“I didn’t do myself any justice, again, nothing has happened for me and I didn’t play very well. With the atmosphere out there and playing Ronnie I semi-choked really. It just got harder and harder.

“You are normally lucky to get one chance against Ronnie but I was getting two or three and still not taking them.”

O’Sullivan will face either Barry Hawkins or Ricky Walden for a place in the semi-finals.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.