Sheffield (Agencies): Six-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan sealed a record-breaking 71st World Championship victory at the Crucible with a 13-4 triumph over Mark Allen.
O’Sullivan was level with Stephen Hendry on most matches won in Sheffield before making two tons and eight 50+ breaks to oust the Northern Irishman. Englishman O’Sullivan faces Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals after the Scot stunned China’s Zhao Xintong 13-9.
Defending champion Mark Selby has work to do as he trails Yan Bingtao 9-7. The pair were all square at 4-4 after the first session but China’s Yan opened a two-frame lead heading into the conclusion in the evening.
Also on Saturday, tournament favourite Neil Robertson faces Jack Lisowski while 2019 champion Judd Trump is in action against Scotland’s Anthony McGill.
Another record ticked off
World number one O’Sullivan is already regarded as one of the best players of all time and is looking in outstanding form in Sheffield, which is a worrying sign for the rest of the contenders. The 46-year-old seems to be improving with age and added another record to his ever-growing list at the World Championship. ‘The Rocket’ now has:
Most wins: 71
Most frame wins: 1,134
Most centuries: 189
Fastest maximum 147: Five minutes, eight seconds
Most prize money: Over £2.5m
The most important accolade of equalling legend Hendry’s seven world title triumphs is his prime target and O’Sullivan looks in fine shape as he seeks to draw level with the Scotsman and take a step towards being regarded as the undisputed best player ever.
He led 6-3 after the first session and extended his advantage to 12-4, twice potting 10 reds and 10 blacks but losing position while on for maximum 147 breaks. A rampant O’Sullivan needed just 15 minutes on Saturday to complete his victory.
He told BBC One: “It was a tough match emotionally, it is hard at the Crucible Theatre and is about who has the biggest heart, the lion’s heart. There are a lot of lions in this tournament. “I am prepared to dig deep and go through the mustard as long as I can manage and control it, still find time to enjoy it out there – that is a bonus. This and the Masters are the hardest tournaments for me.
“For me it is about winning the majors, there is no point coming second because no-one talks about that.
“I have won it six times and it would be nice to win it again, if I don’t no big deal as I am still up there with the two or three other guys who are classed as the true greats of the game.”
Analysis – ‘Hendry might be twitching’
Six-time world champion Steve Davis said on BBC One: “Ronnie O’Sullivan won’t be overly excited, it was a job well done and putting away a player of Mark Allen’s experience, he should feel satisfied. It is just one match at the World Championship but it is nice to get through with a bit of comfort as it relaxes you on the table. He looks in fine form, still in the event and looking sharp.”
John Parrott, the 1991 world champion: “Looking at O’Sullivan, he is going to take some stopping. Stephen Hendry might be twitching a bit with his seven world titles. It will be a very uncomfortable few days for him.”
Ken Doherty, the 1997 world champion: “Playing Ronnie O’Sullivan here is very difficult, particularly when he is in that scoring form. He could have had a couple of 147s and is in flying form.”
Six-time ranking event winner Maguire has slipped down to 40th in the world and the two-time Crucible semi-finalist had to come through qualifying to compete in the main draw.
So, despite his pedigree, the 41-year-old came into the match as underdog against stylish left-hander Zhao, who has broken through this season by winning his first Triple Crown event as well as the German Masters.
But the 25-year-old Chinese player, who has been tipped as a future world champion, had no answer to Maguire’s assuredness once among the balls, with the Glaswegian racking up two centuries and seven further breaks of 50 or more.
Maguire hasn’t beaten O’Sullivan in over a decade and told BBC Sport: “I didn’t even know that. There are not many players who have a good record against Ronnie. I am one of them. Just go out and play.
“I have nothing to lose there and had nothing to lose against Shaun Murphy in the first round. You half know what you are going to get with Ronnie because he is not going to make mistakes, if you leave him in the balls the odds are he will clear up.
“You have to sit in your seat for the next frame and if he misses you know you need to punish him. Just show up on Tuesday and see what happens.”