Ronnie O’Sullivan cruises past Lukas Kleckers to reach second round of Northern Ireland Open in Belfast

Ronnie O’Sullivan breezed into the second round of the Northern Ireland Open with a 4-0 win over Lukas Kleckers.

O’Sullivan arrived in Northern Ireland on the back of his victory in the Hong Kong Masters, and carried on the winning run at the Waterfront Hall.

The world champion played down expectations going into his meeting with Kleckers, saying he was rusty in Hong Kong and had played little snooker since his win at the Crucible.

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But he had never lost an opening match in a Home Nations event, and made it 24 first-round wins on the spin with a comfortable victory over Kleckers.

The Northern Ireland Open does not adorn O’Sullivan’s CV – he has been beaten in three finals – but made an early statement on Sunday.

Kleckers had chances, and got in with a fine opening red with his first shot of the match. He could only amass 25 – and paid the price for a sloppy safety as O’Sullivan compiled a 66 to edge ahead.

Presenting starters to O’Sullivan is not a wise strategy, and Kleckers saw his opponent begin to motor in the second frame.

A simple starter to the bottom left set O’Sullivan on his way, but he was unfortunate to fall out of position when splitting the pack and had to settle for a break of 46.

Kleckers is not known for his fluent play, but he countered with a 46 of his own – and took them well.

But his hard graft proved fruitless, as O’Sullivan won a safety exchange before mopping up the points he needed to secure a two-frame lead.

O’Sullivan was poor in his loss to Alexander Ursenbacher in the British Open, which came before his successful trip to Hong Kong, but he was far more focused against Kleckers.

He declined to take on a tough red in the third frame, instead opting for a safety. It was a telling one and drew an error from Kleckers.

In the blink of an eye O’Sullivan raced through a break of 71 to get within one frame of the winning line.

O’Sullivan’s long potting was a step short of its usual high level and Kleckers had a chance to take the fourth, but he broke down with a 44-point lead and the seven-time world champion replied with a 52.

The frame was in the balance with all the colours on the table. A lengthy safety battle ensued, and both fouled the white. Kleckers had a chance but elected to play safe off the brown rather than take on the pot. It proved a mistake as he stuck it over the green pocket and O’Sullivan stepped in to clear and wrap up the match.

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The Home Nations series returns on Sunday with the Northern Ireland Open live and exclusive on discovery+. You can also watch Seventh Heaven, a two-part show about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s historic World Championship win last season, on demand now

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