Ronnie O’Sullivan’s often tumultuous relationship with his sport took another bizarre twist yesterday when he was told he will be disciplined for failing to fulfil media duties after his 10-7 first-round win over David Gilbert at the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.
O’Sullivan turned a 6-3 overnight lead into a relatively comfortable triumph over the dogged world number 65 before a World Snooker official confirmed the five-time champion’s no-show, which is in breach of his contractual obligations.
In a statement, World Snooker said: “All players have a responsibility to the sport, and in particular to their fans. This includes fulfilling media obligations at events. Any players found to be in breach of these rules will be referred to the disciplinary process.”
While the 40-year-old’s punishment is unlikely to stretch beyond a fine of a few hundred pounds, it raises new questions over his notoriously fragile mental stage ahead of his second-round match against either Barry Hawkins or Zhang Anda next Saturday.
There had been no indications of any simmering discontent from O’Sullivan in the build-up to the tournament, as he attended the pre-match media day, and said he was “happy” to go in search of a sixth title.
And although he never quite found his top form, there was no suggestion O’Sullivan ought to be unduly frustrated with his performance against Gilbert, as he produced breaks of 101 and 72 to wrap up a relatively routine victory.
Gilbert paid tribute to his opponent, saying: “That is probably the best I’ll ever play without winning a game of snooker.
“It was an honour to play the legend that is Ronnie O’Sullivan. I know he wasn’t quite on top of his game but I feel like I learned a lot and I’ve got nothing to be disgraced about.
“There’s not a lot you can worry about when you play against Ronnie because you just expect to get punished every time something doesn’t go your way.”
Two-time champion Mark Williams expressed his relief after wrapping up a 10-4 win over Graeme Dott to claim his first first-round victory in four years at the Crucible.
Leading 7-2 overnight, Williams won the first two frames of the afternoon session to effectively put the result beyond doubt, and said: “It’s nice to still be in it.
“Normally I’m talking rubbish to you lot and driving home straight after. Last year I was just utter crap, really. I’m not saying I won’t be utter crap in the next round, but at least I’m still here.”
Dott had battled his way through three qualifying matches in order to reach the Crucible and he insisted the current system makes it “impossible” for any player to come from outside the top 16 to win the tournament.
Dott’s compatriot Anthony McGill has earned rave reviews since his first-round win over Shaun Murphy but Dott said it is inevitable fatigue will set in before the final weekend of the tournament.
“I don’t think a qualifier can win it — I think anybody who has come through the qualifiers will run out of steam,” insisted Dott.
“To start with we’ve got an advantage because we’ve been playing, but eventually that becomes a disadvantage, because the best-of-19 matches are going to catch up on you.
“I’ve been to three finals and I’ve been exhausted each time that I played, and I didn’t have three best-of-19 matches just before it, so I think it’s too hard.”
John Higgins scored three centuries as he raced to a 7-2 lead over Ryan Day with their match due to resume and be played to a finish on Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Dennis Taylor says snooker will remain indebted to Steve Davis following the six-time world champion’s decision to bring an end to his competitive career at the age of 58.
Davis made his emotional announcement on Sunday, having fallen short in his quest to qualify for what would have been his 31st appearance at the Crucible Theatre.
And he immediately recalled his famous 1985 black ball final loss to Taylor as the most memorable moment of his glittering career.
Taylor, 67, who himself retired from playing in 2000, said Davis had done more than anyone to lift the sport to the levels of popularity it still achieves today.
Taylor said: “Steve dominated the game and raised the game to new heights and new standards, and he is the reason the game is so popular today.
“He was a boring sod back in the 1980s but that was only because he kept winning everything. The nation has taken to Steve Davis whereas back then they wanted him to lose.
“Steve says he will remember that black ball final more than the six times he won the World Championship but it is a tribute to the man that he handled that so well.”
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