Reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan attributed his physical and mental health to a stunning first-round comeback win over Ding Junhui at the Masters in Milton Keynes.
Having trailed 3-1 at the mid-session interval, the 45-year-old looked down and out 5-3 behind in the best-of-11 encounter at the Marshall Arena, where the second Triple Crown event of the season is being held due to Covid-19 restrictions.
But the Rocket – who has 37 ranking event titles to his name in addition to seven Masters wins – responded by claiming the match’s final three frames with two half-centuries in tow, to eventually prevail 6-5.
“I’m probably the fittest I’ve been for ten years,” said O’Sullivan, the world No.3. “I’m running 45 miles a week at the moment, and I’m more excited about that than anything else, really.
“I’m trying to get up to 60 miles a week if I can, while potting a few balls and enjoying the snooker. It was nice to pot a few balls today and get the result.
“When it’s not going your way in a big match, you’ve just got to suck it up sometimes. I never doubt my ability to stick in there – I’m Premier League in the mentality department.”
Despite Judd Trump being absent from the tournament and the fact the likes of Neil Robertson and Mark Selby have already fallen in Buckinghamshire, O’Sullivan isn’t expecting an easy ride in the Masters’ latter stages.
O’Sullivan added: “I don’t pay a lot of attention to who goes out and when. It never works out how it’s supposed to - that’s just sport.
“There’s not been a lot else to do recently so I’ve been on the practice table for six hours a day religiously for three weeks. If it doesn’t come off at this tournament hopefully it will do at another one soon.”
Meanwhile, Sheffield-based Ding admitted playing behind closed doors at one of snooker’s most prestigious events caused him to lose concentration throughout the contest.
He said: “It felt like a practice game, and as if there was no pressure. I got a lot of chances to win but I didn’t make the most of them, and I think Ronnie got better in the second half of the match.
“I was confusing myself at times trying to think about winning the frame and making the positions, and at times I just needed to make simpler decisions which would have earned me more points.”
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