Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan finished with three consecutive century breaks as he reached the second round of the World Snooker Championship on the opening day of the sport’s blue riband tournament.
England’s O’Sullivan, 45, struggled in the first session of his match with compatriot Mark Joyce before finishing strongly as he triumphed 10-4 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England.
O’Sullivan, currently ranked second in the world and widely regarded as snooker’s greatest ever player looked off form initially but battled his way to a 6-3 advantage at the end of the first session.
Joyce reduced the deficit to two frames but O’Sullivan then turned on the style and finished with breaks of 124, 137 and 112.
O’Sullivan is aiming to win the tournament for a seventh time and if he wins his next match he will make a record 20th World Championship quarter-final appearance.
O’Sullivan was the only player to book a place in round two on the opening day of the tournament, but there was plenty more action across two tables.
World number three Neil Robertson of Australia faced Liang Wenbo of China and finished the first session of the contest with a 6-3 advantage.
A potential turning point came in frame seven when during an exchange on the blue Wenbo went in off allowing Robertson to clear to the black and take a three frame lead when the Chinese star had a chance to reduce the deficit to one.
Elsewhere, Wales Jamie Jones produced an impressive run of five straight frames to take a 5-4 overnight lead against Scotland’s Stephen Maguire, the world number eight.
In an all English battle David Gilbert, the world number 15, notched up three centuries as he opened up a convincing 7-2 overnight lead against compatriot Chris Wakelin.
The remaining match saw Masters champion Yan Bingtao of China finish level at 4-4 after the first session against Martin Gould of England.
Bingtao started strongly but a momentum shift came in frame three, which Gould took on the black to get back into a contest that is delicately poised overnight.
The tournament is one of a series of sports events in the United Kingdom that is welcoming spectators as part of a pilot programme by the country’s Government to look at how events with large crowds can safely return.
Capacity at the Crucible Theatre is scheduled to be gradually increased through the rounds of the tournament, due to conclude on May 3, when it is hoped a capacity crowd of 980 can attend for the final.
A total of 632 tickets were sold for the first day of action, as reported by BBC Sport, with more than 200 fans attending each one of the day’s three sessions.