World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and Welshman Jamie Jones got their seasons off to perfect starts, winning Groups One and 27 respectively at BetVictor Championship League Snooker at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
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O’Sullivan, starting the season as newly crowned seven-time Crucible king, opened his campaign with a quick-fire 3-0 win over Farakh Ajaib, a match in which he conceded just 46 points.
A closer tie against long-time practice partner Alfie Burden saw O’Sullivan concede his first frame of the group, and despite seeing Burden make the highest break of the match (79), it was the world number one who was the 3-1 victor.
Heading into the evening, O’Sullivan required just a point against Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher who had registered 3-1 wins against both Burden and Ajaib. The Rocket defeated Ursenbacher 3-1 with a century break (121) in the final frame, to maintain his perfect win record in the group, booking his spot in winners’ week.
Speaking afterwards, O’Sullivan said: “I just enjoyed playing, it felt good to be out there hitting balls again I suppose.
“Even if I play rubbish, it doesn’t bother me, I can quickly get over it and move on to the things I enjoy.”
It’s the first competitive outing on the baize for O’Sullivan following his historic seventh world title in Sheffield, reflecting on that feat he said: “I felt like my game was ok heading into Sheffield, it was enough to get the job done. The reaction was great, but also wasn’t great as I enjoy going under the radar these days.”
It was even more routine for Jamie Jones in Group 27 who qualified for winners’ week with a game to spare.
Jones started the day with a somewhat scrappy 3-1 victory over Estonia’s first ever professional snooker player Andres Petrov in the opening match on table two.
The Welsh potter found another level against former World Seniors Champion David Lilley, winning 3-0 with a group high break of 134 in the second frame. A break of 54 in the third and final frame enough to complete the win and earn a spot in winners’ week before facing Sam Craigie in what resulted in a 2-2 draw.
On his group victory, Jones said: “I’ve been practising well and playing as much as I’ve ever done in the off season. This year, I’ve done a little bit of coaching where in previous years I’d usually put the cue down for two months. Now, I feel sharp and am glad to get through to the next stage.
“I have been a notoriously slow starter to the season, so I did feel a little bit of pressure coming into today as I didn’t want to start this season how I usually do.
“I’m currently 31st [on the tour] and I’ve given myself the hefty goal of trying to get into the Masters by January. It’s a massive goal, but if you don’t aim high what are you going to achieve? I’d also love to pick up my first trophy this season.”
2022 BetVictor Championship League Snooker continues tomorrow with Ricky Walden in action on Table One in Group 15 live on FreeSports and Matchroom.Live in the UK and networks worldwide with Andy Lee, Jackson Page, and Gerard Greene. Xiao Guodong leads Group 32 with Rod Lawler, Scott Donaldson, and reigning women’s world snooker champion Nutcharut Wongharuthai live on the Matchroom Multi Sport YouTube for free.