Ronnie is the poster boy of the the tournament but he was beaten in the first round by Dominic Dale.
This is certainly not what Ronnie hoped for, he will be bitterly disappointed. Dominic of course is an experienced veteran, and it’s easy to forget that he’s a double ranking event winner. He’s been struggling in the past couple of seasons but he seems to play better this season and he needs to: he’s in danger to drop off the tour, being provisionally ranked 96 on the “end of season” projection list. This was never going to be an easy first round match. Also, those two know each other since their junior days: no way Dominic would be “intimidated” or feeling uneasy playing on the match table. It is however a shock as this is the first time ever that Dominic has beaten Ronnie in a ranking event and it is also the first time he loses in at the last 128 stage since the German Masters 2014.
For Ronnie though this is a bit of a disaster, and it’s worrying as well. He needs results in ranking events if he wants to qualify for the Coral Cup events and the first one already comes in February. This puts a lot of pressure on him for the coming ones: Northern Ireland Open, UK Championship and Scottish Open.
Here are a few great pictures by Tai Chengzhe – thank you Tai
Having now watched the match, this is my assessment: Ronnie simply didn’t play well enough. His long potting was poor, his safety game wasn’t accurate enought and he seemed to struggle with the pace of the table as his positional game wasn’t as good as it usually is. Tables often play heavy in China, and this appeared to be the case here, but it’s the same for both players. Dominic played better than Ronnie without being outstanding and had a bit more run aswell although that certainly was not the determining factor. He was the better player and fully deserved the win.
The one positive factor was Ronnie’s attitude: he never stopped trying, didn’t play any rash shot, and, when defeated, still took time for the fans.
This is the match:
Dominic Dale recorded a shock 5-3 defeat of 36-time ranking event winner Ronnie O’Sullivan on day one of the Zhiyuan World Open in Yushan.
It was a momentous victory for Welshman Dale, who had lost all of his eight career meetings with the Rocket coming into this afternoon’s clash. The world number 94 also narrowly avoided relegation from the circuit last season. Despite finishing the campaign outside of the world’s top 64, he retained his tour card thanks to his position in the one-year earnings list.
O’Sullivan claimed victory at the invitational Shanghai Masters earlier in the season, winning the event for the third year in a row. However, the world number two currently sits 72nd in the one-year ranking list and has work to do to secure his position in the Coral Series later in the season.
The Spaceman secured an early advantage over the Rocket this afternoon, taking the opening two frames to lead 2-0. However, O’Sullivan bounced back to claim two on the bounce and level at 2-2.
Dale edged back in front courtesy of a 76 break, but was again pinned back by O’Sullivan who levelled at 3-3.
From there two-time ranking event Dale surged to the line. He made breaks of 51 and 72 to come through a surprise 5-3 victor.
“It’s taken 27 years to beat Ronnie, that might be the beginning of my career now,” said Dale. “It is always an honour to play the greatest player in the game. In some respects when you play Ronnie, focus and application is guaranteed. If it isn’t then something is wrong. I didn’t expect to beat him, but I have a lot of experience and I was just there to perform.
“Ronnie looked like he was taking the match very seriously. There have been times in his career we know that hasn’t been the case, but it was today. He seemed very focussed and put in a good effort there.”
There is this post-match interview on weibo.
Here is a summary of it (not exact quotes, but the essence of it)
“I made too many mistakes. Dominic played better than me and deserved the win. Really disappointed really. I like to play in China, want to do well, but it wasn’t meant to be today. The conditions were good. No excuses. I probably didn’t play enough. I’ll need more matches under my belt, I’l need probably 2 or three tournaments to get where I want to be. No excuses, It wasn’t jet-lag, I felt OK. I had to be a little bit for the sponsors this morning, but it’s normal and I enjoyed it. It’s good for the sponsors and the tournament. No excuses. But I feel bad for the fans, they want to see me play well, make centuries. And for the sponsors. But I will be back. I want to play in the China tournaments. It’s a a fantastic tournament, it’s a fantastic tournament, fantastic venue and fantastic crowd. I hope to come back next year.”
Not great obviously, but life goes on and the tournament continues.