Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he does not feel a burden of expectation as he hunts for a third successive World Snooker Championship title – opening his 2014 bid with a routine win.
This time last year the 38-year-old five-time champion romped to victory at the Crucible following a 12-month exodus from the game, which had threatened to become permanent.
And after sweeping to victories at the Masters and the Welsh Open – including a masterful 147 in the final frame – the hype surrounding his tilt at this year’s worlds has only intensified.
O’Sullivan made short work of lowest-ranked qualifier Robin Hull in his first round on Saturday, racing to a five-frame lead in the morning session before tying up a 10-4 win.
The Rocket may have to start firing on more cylinders to defend his title at the Crucible but he maintains he is under no pressure to string together a third success in a row.
“I don’t really see there’s a massive expectation on me, I’m just here to do a job and I go about it professionally as I can,” said O’Sullivan. “The first one is out of the way now and I just look forward to the next.
“I knew it was going to be hard and I knew I had to play decent to win because Robin’s a good scorer and very good in the tactical game. I knew I had to be on my game which is good in a way.
“7-2 was a big lead to have because it was kind of hard to get up for it because I only had to win three frames and I knew I was playing OK. So I knew if stayed calm and relaxed I knew I’d get some sort of chance to be able to pick some momentum up and apply some pressure.”
In fact, the only pressure that came from Saturday’s proceedings was the presence of One Direction star Louis Tomlinson – who O’Sullivan admits he did not hit any of his high notes for.
However at one point he had looked like spinning his magic in front of the pop star, on course for a maximum break before settling for a contribution of 90 in the ninth frame – but O’Sullivan’s adamant Tomlinson still enjoyed it.
“He’s a friend of a friend of mine, he said he liked snooker and just wanted to come down,” he added. “It was quite nerve-wracking having someone who’s never come to watch a game of snooker before.
“Sometimes there’s a part of you who wants to put on a really special display just so they’ve got good memories. I didn’t fly, but I think he enjoyed it.”
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