RONNIE O’SULLIVAN recovered from a poor start to beat Ben Woollaston on the opening day of the International Championship.
The five-times world champion fought back from 3-1 down to progress to the last 32 stage of the major ranking event – the biggest to be played outside the UK in the snooker calendar.
A major upset looked to be on the cards when Leicester’s Woollaston won three of the opening four frames with a top break of 74. But O’Sullivan found his touch just when he needed to as he took the next four frames with breaks of 124, 87 and 97 to go 5-3 ahead.
O’Sullivan looked set to seal the match in the ninth frame but surprisingly missed a routine pink off its spot to end a break of 29. The rare error handed Woollaston the chance to stay in the contest which he did with runs of 40 and 36.
But a poor safety shot from 27-year-old in the tenth frame handed O’Sullivan the chance to finish off the contest and book a second round match against Scotland’s Anthony McGill who earlier beat Alan McManus 6-4.
Elsewhere, the opening day proved to be one to forget for former world champions John Higgins and Graeme Dott who suffered heavy 6-1 defeats to Li Hang and Craig Steadman respectively.
Shanghai Masters winner and recent Asian Tour Event 2 champion Stuart Bingham continued his winning ways with a narrow 6-4 win over Robbie Williams to book his place in the last 32. Shanghai Masters runner-up Mark Allen had no problem reaching the next stage after thrashing Nigel Bond 6-0.
Man of the moment Oliver Lines, who dramatically came back from behind to beat world champion Mark Selby to reach the venue stage of the competition, continued his hot streak of form beating China’s Huang Jiahao in the wildcard round. The 19-year-old will meet Rod Lawler on Monday for a place in the last 32 stage of the competition.
Barry Hawkins ended Jimmy White’s hopes of a good run this week in China as he battled his way to a 6-4 win against the six times World Championship finalist and Ryan Day, fresh from his 147 exploits in the Asian PTC event, won a deciding frame shootout to beat Mark Joyce in the first round.
Day was not the only Welsh player to taste opening day success in Chengdu as Mark Williams cruised to a 6-1 win over amateur qualifier Oliver Brown and Michael White thrashed Aditya Mehya 6-0.
But there was no such joy for fellow Welshman Dominic Dale who lost a final frame decider to Ian Burns and Jamie Jones suffered an agonising 6-5 defeat to China’s Zhao Xintong in one of the wildcard round matches.
The opening day also saw victories for Martin Gould, Mark Davis and Sam Baird. Monday will see the likes of world number two Neil Robertson in action along with other top stars including Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy.