Ronnie O’Sullivan suggested that he will retire in three years after beating Hossein Vafaei at the World Grand Prix in Coventry.
O’Sullivan was slow to get going against the Iranian and insisted he has earned the right to “stink out” events when not at his best.
‘The Rocket’ eventually found some fluency to progress to the last 16 with a 4-1 win.
Vafaei defeated O’Sullivan at the German Masters without conceding a frame but could not reproduce a similar performance.
He took the opening frame of the match but O’Sullivan reeled off the next three frames. The six-time world champion did not make a substantial break until the fourth frame – when a century took him within a frame of victory.
An unanswered 81 got O’Sullivan over the line and afterwards he told ITV Sport: “I will stink places out for another three years, I want three more world titles and I have earned the right to smell a few places out.
“Then if it doesn’t get any better it’s time to hang the cue up. I still love the game but you can’t play like that, I can’t anyway.
“It is showing in my results, I used to win a lot of tournaments but now get caught out in semis, quarters, finals, and there is a reason for that.
“I’m not as good as I was, but I accept that. I am not one of these deluded people, I am quite realistic and there is only so much juice to squeeze out of the lemon.”
O’Sullivan will face Jimmy Robertson for a place in the semi-finals after he overcame Scottish Open champion Luca Brecel 4-3.
Mark Selby ended Tom Ford’s impressive run with a 5-2 victory and he will face Neil Robertson, who edged a thriller against Yan Bingtao 5-4.
The deciding frame came down to a battle on the blue with each player unable to quite manipulate the balls to their liking, before Robertson chanced a risky pot and then knocked in the pink for victory.
Stephen Maguire produced an inspired comeback from 3-1 down to snatch victory from Jack Lisowski and the Scot will next play Stuart Bingham, who survived a tense rematch of the 2020 Masters final against Ali Carter in an encounter that also went to a deciding frame.