Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White will meet in a tantalising last 64 clash at the Coral Northern Ireland Open after both secured wins on day one in Belfast.
The Rocket wasted little time in his 4-1 victory over world number 117 David John. The five-time World Champion took just under an hour to secure the win which included runs of 131, 86 and 133. That set up a first ranking meeting with the Whirlwind since the 2010 World Open.
O’Sullivan remarked: “Jimmy’s one of my best mates on the circuit. He’s a great player. I’m just enjoying playing at the moment. It doesn’t matter who I’m against, but I haven’t played Jimmy in a long time.
“I had four or five days at home the other week practising which I think really helped. I feel like my game is coming together bit by bit, but I’m giving myself to January or February for it to come.”
White secured his second round berth with a tense 4-2 defeat of Welshman Gareth Allen.
The Whirlwind trailed 57-19 in the opener before making a classic counter clearance of 47 to go 1-0 ahead. He snatched the second frame on the final ball as well, holding his nerve to clear the colours. As the game progressed it became more tense. With White leading 3-2, both players missed chances as the balls went into tight positions. However, it was White who eventually got over the line to seal his place in the last 64.
John Higgins extended his winning streak to nine matches with a 4-0 demolition of Paul Davison. The Wizard of Wishaw’s season has burst into life over the last couple of weeks, claiming back to back titles at the inaugural China Championship and the Champion of Champions event where he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final.
Higgins made contributions of 71, 70 and 107 as he made light work of the world number 92.
“I’m feeling really good,” said Higgins. “I know every tournament is different but I kept playing roughly the same way that I’ve done in the last couple of tournaments so really pleasing.
“Any win against Ronnie in a final is a special occasion. That was another one. I know he didn’t play his best but it was still pleasing to win 10-7.”
Luca Brecel recorded one of the best wins of his career against Shaun Murphy. The talented Belgian played some inspired snooker as he limited his opponent to just eight points throughout the match.
The 21-year-old made contributions of 83, 83, 117 and 55 to progress. Until now last year’s German Masters runner-up Brecel had struggled to find his best form in 2016/17. However, a win over Jamie Cope in the last 64 will ensure his best run of the campaign.
Jordan Brown delighted the home crowds with victory over Ben Woollaston. There was a vocal contingent of Brown supporters in the Titanic Exhibition Centre and they could be heard around the arena after their man made a 102 clearance to go 2-0 up. Woollaston fought back but with the scores at 2-2 Brown held his nerve to take the fifth on the black. That proved to be the crucial moment as he ran out a 4-2 winner.