Ronnie O’Sullivan feeling improved but also his age as he breezes through UK Championship opener

'I have to dig but I do feel like a much better cueist.'

Ronnie O’Sullivan feeling improved but also his age as he breezes through UK Championship opener
2022 Cazoo British Open - Day 5
Ronnie O’Sullivan cruised into the last 16 in York (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan feels he is a better and more consistent player than he has been in the past, but admits that top level snooker takes a lot more out of him at 47 years old than in his younger days.

The Rocket faced a tricky test in his UK Championship opener on Tuesday in Anthony McGill, and things looked very sticky early on when the Scot won the first two frames.

However, O’Sullivan improved as McGill began to struggle and the world number one won the next six frames to stroll to a 6-2 victory.

That takes the Rocket into the last 16 where he will take on either Rob Milkins or Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, a match he will be clear favourite for regardless of who he takes on.

The seven-time world champion knocked in five half-centuries against McGill and feels that he is striking the ball nicely, although it is taking a lot of digging deep to produce anything like his best, rather than it coming easily in years gone by.

‘I find the matches quite long and hard now, but the more I play, if I can win two or three matches in a tournament you get used to it,’ he told the BBC. ‘I find it harder to concentrate and to have the hunger.

‘Playing competitions you’ve got to really dig deep, that’s hard at my stage. Exhibitions and invitationals you can have fun and relax a bit. At my age you want to relax a little bit.

‘I’ve listened to John Higgins saying he feels like a much better player now than when he was younger and I know what he’s saying, I feel like that sometimes.

‘I’m hitting the ball really well, but I’m having to dig deeper, I never had to dig, I felt like I could just come out and bang, bang, bang and it felt easy. Now I have to dig but I do feel like a much better cueist, better player, more consistent. You’ve just got to try and enjoy it.’

McGill started the game brilliantly with a century in the opening frame, but admitted that his performance was well below par from the second frame onwards.

‘Not good. Certainly not good enough against one of the top players, not really good enough against any of the players. Must do better,’ McGill told Eurosport.

‘The standard of the shots that I played wasn’t too high. Even at the start it’s not like I felt amazing, lots to improve on. I don’t mind so much getting beat, it’s the performance.’

2023 BetVictor English Open - Day 6
John Higgins has been to three semi-finals this season, but not beyond (Picture: Getty Images)

The aforementioned John Higgins was on the other table on Tuesday afternoon and picked up a very solid 6-3 win over Joe O’Connor.

The Wizard of Wishaw said he was just trying to keep his morale up during the match after some stinging defeats in recent months, and it seemed to work.

‘All I was concentrating on today was keeping my shoulders up,’ he told Eurosport. ‘Because in the last wee while they’ve been getting slumped a little bit, so all I was doing was concentrating on staying up right and see what happens.’

Speaking to WST, Higgins said: ‘He’s a very good player, Joe, I rate him really highly. You can see over the years he must have practiced a lot with Mark Selby, he’s picked a lot of great habits up, so that’s a great win for me.

‘I’ve just lost to some great performances at the start of the season. There’s nothing much you can do except get back on the horse and give it your all at the next tournament and see where that takes you. I’m very happy with how I’m striking the ball.’

Higgins takes on Neil Robertson or Zhou Yuelong in the last 16.

MORE : Neil Robertson shocked by bad results but has a plan to turn things round

MORE : Ronnie O’Sullivan believes mistakes have led to longevity 30 years on from first UK Championship title

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