Ronnie O'Sullivan was simply unstoppable as he rounded off a dominant spell of snooker at the World Grand Prix with a comfortable 10-3 victory over Ding Junhui.
Favourite for the Crucible?
It was O'Sullivan's first success of 2018 but his fourth of the season as he took his overall tally to 32. Ranked number two on the planet but in much better form than world champion Mark Selby, O'Sullivan must be many people's favourite to win a sixth global title at the Crucible in May.
The Rocket has hinted at the possibility of not being present but when his head is in the game, as it has been in Preston this week, snooker's second most decorated player ever finds the lure of top-level competition too hard to resist.
His form over the past few days has been imperious and it started with a whitewash of Robert Milkins. Yan Bingtao pushed him all the way to a decider in the second round during a good week for the Chinese contingent. Ding Junhui made the final whilst Xiao Guodong defeated John Higgins and Mark Allen, with the latter coming after going 3-0 behind.
Yet it was O'Sullivan who impressed in the quarter-finals and semi-finals for two different reasons. His last eight clash with Xiao saw him blow away the grafter with four centuries on his way to a 5-0 victory. However, his mental strength prevailed over his snooker technique in the final four against Stephen Maguire when he produced three breaks between 72 and 128 to win four frames in a row to recover from going 6-4 behind.
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Can anyone stop him?
Ding had already overcome a final frame decider against world number one Selby to reach the final and matched O'Sullivan in the first four frames. With the scores locked at 2-2, the Chinese number one was certainly in with a chance of rekindling his impressive late 2017 form.
Yet O'Sullivan found his range in the final five frames of the session, winning four with three century breaks. After a break between sessions, there was no late revival from Ding as he potted just 22 points and O'Sullivan secured title number 32, just four short of Stephen Hendry's record. If O'Sullivan does not enjoy snooker, as he often suggests, his reaction at the end of the match told a very different story.
It leaves a concerning fear factor for the rest of the snooker circuit as we edge towards the World Championships. With just four ranking events to play before the date at the Crucible, many of the top ten players need to find their feet, beginning with the Welsh Open next week.
Judd Trump was knocked out by Michael White in the opening round, alongside Mark Williams who may have peaked too soon following his two recent ranking titles. Masters' champion Mark Allen would have seen his confidence dented by that Xiao comeback in the first round, whilst Neil Robertson and Higgins failed to make it past the next stage. Shaun Murphy is still without a tournament success all season and slipped up against Maguire in the quarter-finals.