SHAUN Murphy believes Ronnie O'Sullivan is already showing "ominous" form the in defence of his title at the Betfair World Championship.
Despite spending nearly a year out of the sport, O'Sullivan played some sparkling snooker in his 10-4 first-round win over Marcus Campbell on Saturday.
Murphy was also sharp in seeing off Martin Gould 10-5 last night, but the 30-year-old knows how O'Sullivan performs will be the gauge by which everyone else is measured.
And judging by the signs from O'Sullivan's first major match since last May's final, Murphy can see why the four-time champion is being strongly backed to add a fifth title.
"I saw his entrance. I was standing in the wings for his entrance into the arena, and the atmosphere was fantastic," Murphy said.
"I thought that to go through all of that buzz and everything he's gone through in the last 12 months, to start as he did was ominous.
"But he's human and I'm sure he felt a bit nervous as well, and it'll be interesting to see how he does."
Murphy began at 5-4 ahead of Gould in their second session, and after he edged a 57-minute opening frame the 2005 champion accelerated to achieve a handsome victory.
Sale-based Murphy is prepared for the gritty side of action at the Crucible, and accepts matches will not always feature champagne snooker.
"Until a few months ago I held the record for the longest frame in a ranking event of 90-something minutes. So 50-odd minutes is nothing to me," he said.
"I was happy to stay there all night to win that frame because there's a big difference between 6-4 and 5-all.
"And this is the biggest tournament in the world. If you're going to try your best it might as well be here."