No problems for Rocket

  • Last Updated: April 19 2014, 22:39 BST

Ronnie O'Sullivan moved a first step nearer the sixth world title that would give him equal footing with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon after a no-frills opening win against Robin Hull at the Crucible.

Ronnie O'Sullivan shakes hands with Robin Hull after defeating him in Sheffield
Ronnie O'Sullivan shakes hands with Robin Hull after defeating him in Sheffield

Nothing about Hull, Finland's only professional, suggested he would give O'Sullivan a test. He may have beaten Peter Ebdon, a former nemesis of O'Sullivan, in the final qualifying round to earn a shot at the Dafabet World Championship title holder, but Ebdon is not remotely the force he was when his tenacity could grind down the best.

Hull had only one previous Crucible appearance behind him, when he bowed out in the first round in 2002. He has also played only sporadically since returning to the tour in 2011 after three years in retirement which was triggered by a life-threatening virus.

O'Sullivan's 10-4 victory, therefore, was about a par performance, offering few genuine clues about the state of his game. There was little spectacular from the 38-year-old, who is bidding to complete a hat-trick of consecutive world titles, having turned over Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins in the last two finals.

The 1997 world champion Ken Doherty kissed the theatre's carpet on his way into the arena for his tussle with Stuart Bingham.

Doherty has failed to qualify in three of the last five years but earned a place this time by beating last year's clown prince of the Crucible, Thailand's Dechawat Poomjaeng.

The 44-year-old, the oldest man in the draw, was in trouble when he fell 3-0 behind Bingham, but the 'Darling of Dublin', who usually presents a radio show on Saturday mornings, made his presence felt as he mounted a fightback.

The session was in the balance until Bingham pinched the eighth frame to guarantee himself a lead. It will be with only a slender advantage that he resumes on Sunday, however, after Doherty took frame nine with a flourish to trail 5-4 overnight.

Shaun Murphy was ahead in the fashion stakes but the 2005 champion trailed on the scoreboard against Jamie Cope.

Despite showing impressive form early in the match with breaks of 112, 87 and two runs to 70, Murphy let a 4-2 lead slip away to trail 5-4 in another match that ends on Sunday evening.

In a bold Gatsby-like suit, Murphy may still find the game to match his getup, however Cope's first appearance at the Crucible since 2011 was looking rich in promise as a break of 58 at the end of the session saw him hit the front.

Stoke cueman Cope has struggled badly with a tremor that affects his cueing, but he recently began working with a sports psychologist and the world number 53 sailed through three qualifying rounds to earn the showdown with Murphy.

Scotland's Stephen Maguire, twice a World Championship semi-finalist, faces a fight on Sunday evening to stay in the tournament after slumping 6-3 adrift of Welshman Ryan Day.

Ali Carter leads Chinese debutant Xiao Guodong 5-4 after edging the final frame of the night in a close tussle, with their match concluding on Sunday afternoon.