Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 31 July-16 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and Red Button, with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app. Full details and times.
Five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan says the standard of snooker lower down the rankings is so “poor” he would have to “lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50”.
O’Sullivan, 44, beat Ding Junhui 13-10 in a high-quality contest to reach the World Championship quarter-finals.
He faces Mark Williams, 45, next in Sheffield, with both players turning professional in 1992.
O’Sullivan said young players coming through “are not that good really”.
Englishman O’Sullivan, Welshman Williams and Scot John Higgins all graduated as pros 28 years ago and have gone on to dominate the sport.
The trio remain in snooker’s elite top 16, have won 13 world crowns between them and a staggering total of 98 ranking titles.
O’Sullivan and Williams first faced each other in the 1994 Welsh Open, with the Chigwell man claiming 31 victories in 45 head-to-head encounters.
Asked if would have believed he and Williams would still be performing at the top over two decades later, O’Sullivan told BBC Two: “Probably not if you asked me then but when you look at the standard of play, I would say yes.
“People like me, John Higgins and Mark Williams, if you look at the younger players coming through, they are not that good really. Most of them would do well as half-decent amateurs, not even amateurs. They are so bad.
“A lot of them you see now, you look at them and think, ‘I would have to lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50’. That is why we are still hovering around, because of how poor it is down that end.”
‘It is a like a morgue out there’
O’Sullivan suffered a shock first-round defeat against amateur James Cahill last year but reaches the last-eight stage for the 18th time in his career.
‘The Rocket’ finds himself in the more difficult half of the draw, facing three-time champion Williams next before a potential blockbuster meeting against Neil Robertson or Mark Selby in the semi-finals.
He and China’s Ding showed expert cueball control, compiling four centuries and 15 further breaks of 50 or more between them.
Having been neck and neck up until the final session, Ding’s long potting deserted him as O’Sullivan made breaks of 87, 73, 60, 117 and 93 to go through.
O’Sullivan told BBC Two: “I am just glad I found a way to try and compete with my mind out there. For a while I have been going out and slapping the ball about having fun, not caring if I won or lost. Deep down I do care but treat it like a bit of fun.
“I spoke to Steve Peters and worked on a few things so when I went out there my mind was clear.
“It is better with the fans, of course it is. It is like playing in a morgue out there. It feels like a village at the moment, the players are much more relaxed, for the top players it can be a nightmare.”
How Robertson and Wilson advanced
World number two Neil Robertson battled to a 13-9 victory over Barry Hawkins to reach the quarter-finals.
After Robertson had led 6-3 Hawkins hit back for 8-8, but the Australian took charge of the final session with breaks of 59, 50 and 79 helping him through.
Robertson comes up against three-time champion Selby in the next round.
Meanwhile, Kyren Wilson withstood a brilliant fightback from compatriot Martin Gould to progress by the same scoreline.
The world number eight held a healthy 10-3 advantage but saw the lead cut to 11-8 in the final session.
It should have been 11-9 when Gould led 68-0 with Wilson needing three snookers, but he managed to get them to pinch the frame on the black and took the one required to advance.
Wilson sets up a mouth-watering last-eight tie against world number one and defending champion Judd Trump, who said last year the pair “don’t speak” and “don’t really get on”.
Hot and humid in Sheffield
This year’s delayed World Championship because of the coronavirus pandemic means the usual spring slot of April-May has been pushed back to July-August in the summer.
And it seems to have affected the playing conditions in the tournament.
Robertson told BBC Two: “In the past five or six years, I have always lost to someone who keeps it tight and can shut down the offence. From that perspective I was happy with 8-8 and could have been 10-6 down in other years.
“The table is playing very heavy, it is very humid out there and it does not feel like playing at Sheffield. It feels like playing in Asia and it is tough to screw the ball back.
“My expectations are very high but playing players like Barry Hawkins, Mark Selby and then Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ding Junhui or Mark Williams… top players like playing [against] other top players.”
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