RONNIE O’Sullivan routed Scott Donaldson 4-0 in Preston to set up a last-16 clash with China’s Yu Delu in the Wyldecrest Parks Players Tour Championship Finals.
And the Rocket then admitted that the £300,000 tournament at the Guildhall, which ends on Saturday, could prove the perfect warm-up for his bid for a sixth world title.
O’Sullivan, who has won the Masters and Welsh Open titles already since the turn of the year, knocked in breaks of 109 and 73 in a whitewash of the 20-year-old Scottish prospect from Perth, up to a career-high ranking of world No67 after reaching the last 16 in Newport.
But everything O’Sullivan does this week is with one eye on the World Championships at the Crucible in Sheffield next month.
The 38-year-old said: “I felt sharp though still a bit rusty, and I would rather go to Sheffield underplayed than overplayed.
“I got off to a good start against Scott, and that can put pressure on anyone – it can be tough out there in big matches in a big event like this.
“So it is certainly not a criticism, he has done really well since coming on tour a couple of years ago, but maybe the occasion got to him a little.
“I will use this tournament in the right way, and I want to at least get through the first couple of rounds. If I win the first two matches, my form will click in.
“It was the right thing to do to enter. It was switched from Thailand, and I wouldn’t have gone there but now it works.
“I expect to gather momentum and get sharper. Yu Delu I have had good matches against and he practises with me in Romford, so I know how good a player he is.”
Mark Allen looked impressive in beating Wales’s Jamie Jones 4-2, cracking in breaks of 136, 94 and 107 in a match that saw him 2-1 adrift at one stage.
Allen was watched by friend and Northern Ireland record goalscorer David Healy, currently doing football coaching badges, who had flown in to follow his countryman’s progress from Belfast.
The left-hander said: “I played really well the whole match, it wasn’t just the way I finished it off – and I couldn’t believe that I was 2-1 down. I had played one bad shot to that point.
“So it was just staying patient, I knew I was playing well after the 136 in the opener. I don’t know why I play well at this time of the season, but you have to cash in when you are.
“There are some big guns down the bottom of the draw but this is a PTC, best of sevens, and maybe the seedings don’t mean quite the same. People might say I had a good draw, but it is only a good draw if you play well. The people in this event have had to play well to be here.”
Ryan Day, semi-finalist in Berlin where he was only just edged out 6-5 by Ding Junhui in the German Masters, beat Stuart Bingham 4-3. And Yu Delu beat Chinese rival and Romford stablemate Liang Wenbo 4-2 to seal his date with O’Sullivan.
Photographs by Monique Limbos