Ronnie O’Sullivan kicked off his Northern Ireland Open challenge with a hugely impressive 4-0 win over Stuart Carrington.
The six-time world champion has been beaten in the final of the event for the previous three years, with Judd Trump the man to topple him on each occasion.
They are in different halves of the draw, which raises the prospect of another final showdown.
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There is a long way to go for that to happen, but O’Sullivan made the ideal start with a demolition of Carrington.
His potting was impressive and safety play extremely solid, and it married together to ease him over the line at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
O’Sullivan went through the whole of the previous season without a tournament win, albeit he did reach five finals.
He has spoken about being more relaxed about his snooker, and not focused on results. Such a mindset could free him up, and he was deeply impressive in seeing off Carrington.
O’Sullivan made a blistering start, as a break of 90 secured the opening frame in 10 minutes.
The second frame lasted nine and a half minutes, with it going O’Sullivan’s way thanks to breaks of 39 and 45.
Frames one and two showed the potting arm was sharp, the third frame indicated O’Sullivan’s safety game was in good shape. He was dragged into a battle by Carrington, but emerged unscathed and took the opening when it came to move three frames to the good.
Carrington passed up a chance in the fourth, and O'Sullivan pounced as a break of 120, the 1,108th century of his career, wrapped up the win in under an hour to set up a meeting with Andy Hicks.
O'Sullivan and Hicks first met at the UK Championship way back in 1992.
Kyren Wilson is well fancied to go well this week and he opened up with a 4-0 win over Jamie Clarke, while Gary Wilson beat home favourite Jordan Brown by the same scoreline.
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