Ronnie beat Mark Joyce by 10-4 yesterday to get his title defence underway,
The score looks comfortable, but it wasn’t a comfortable match: Ronnie struggled badly for the best part of it, only finding some fluency in the last 3 or 4 frames.
Here are the scores:
That looks like good scoring, and it was in the end, but actually the first 10 frames were error-strewn.
Here are the reports by WST:
Defending Champion O’Sullivan Leads Joyce
Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan established a 6-3 advantage over Crucible debutant Mark Joyce after the first session of their opening round clash at the Betfred World Championship.
O’Sullivan lifted his sixth world title last year after a crushing 18-8 defeat of Kyren Wilson in the final. That left the 45-year-old just one behind Stephen Hendry’s record of seven Crucible crowns, which he is aiming to equal this year.
Joyce came through qualifying earlier in the week to secure a first trip to the Theatre of Dreams in 15 years as a professional. Joyce defeated Brazillian Igor Figueiredo 10-7 on Judgement Day to progress into the main draw.
Neither player managed to produce their fluent best this morning, but it was the Rocket who was most efficient with his time at the table. O’Sullivan spent just 73 minutes at the table to Joyce’s 87, but he managed to convert that into a three-frame advantage.
The first frame saw O’Sullivan express doubts about the cue ball, which was changed after just three shots. A new white was provided and both players went on to spurn opportunities in a scrappy opener, before O’Sullivan eventually pinched it on the colours to move 1-0 ahead.
Joyce fired in a welcome run of 58 to get his first frame on the board and restore parity at 1-1. From there O’Sullivan started to take control of proceedings, breaks of 63 and 58 helped him take two on the bounce and go into the mid-session 3-1 up.
They traded frames when play resumed, with O’Sullivan re-establishing his two-frame cushion thanks to a run of 70, which put him 4-2 ahead.
Joyce pulled back within one, before a dramatic eighth frame. It came down the final blue, which O’Sullivan eventually cross-doubled to the yellow pocket and cleared to steal on the black and lead 5-3. A run of 69 then saw him hammer home his advantage and head into the second session 6-3 ahead. They will return at 7pm to play the best of 19 encounter to a conclusion.
O’Sullivan: Fans Spur Me On
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s bid to win a record-equalling seventh Betfred World Championship crown started strongly as he hammered Mark Joyce 10-4 to reach the last 16 at the Crucible.
The opening day in Sheffield marked the return of fans to sport in the UK. O’Sullivan struggled with his game in the first ten frames against Joyce but then, thriving on the Crucible’s unique atmosphere, stepped up a gear and finished with three consecutive centuries.
“It was a great to have a crowd,” he said. “It’s fantastic for the fans to be back watching snooker, I could feel them there. Having a crowd makes me want to find something, it’s my natural instinct. It spurs me on to play better.”
With a comfortable victory over Crucible debutant Joyce, O’Sullivan set up second round match with Anthony McGill or Ricky Walden. Having lifted the trophy in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2020, O’Sullivan needs one more title to match Stephen Hendry’s record of seven.
This season has been a mixed one for 45-year-old O’Sullivan – he has plenty of match practice under his belt having reached five ranking event finals, but has the unwanted record of losing all five. Despite not winning a title since conquering the Crucible last August, the Essex cueman is rated among the favourites for the £500,000 top prize, alongside Judd Trump and Neil Robertson.
O’Sullivan struggled for fluency in the the first session today, and Joyce looked in with a chance when he won the first frame of the evening to trail 6-4. But Walsall’s Joyce scored just eight points in the last four frames as O’Sullivan hit top gear with breaks of 58, 124, 137 and 112.
“There’s nothing good to say about the first ten frames,” said O’Sullivan, who is playing at the Crucible for a remarkable 29th consecutive occasion having made his debut in 1993. “I played well towards the end, hopefully I can use my experience and build on that. It’s a long tournament so things can turn around but I will need to play like that for 60 or 70 per cent of the time to have a chance. There are times out there when I wonder why I’m playing, then I look at the bigger picture. Snooker has been good to me and I enjoy it.”
Joyce said: “I have mixed emotions, I enjoyed the match but I’m disappointed with the way I played. Ronnie looked as nervy as me early in the match and at that point I felt he was there for the taking. My safety and long potting were good but I missed too many easy balls and he mopped up. Then tonight he played with a lot more freedom. Having played here once it has made me more determined to get back again. Next time I will be more relaxed.”
Ronnie may be happy with the return of the crowd but he wasn’t impressed by the behaviour of some fans:
Ronnie O’Sullivan through but rattled by encounter with ‘boozed-up’ fan
Ronnie O’Sullivan gave the returning Crucible fans a treat by firing three consecutive centuries to wrap up a first round win over Mark Joyce – but fears their overenthusiasm could wreck his bid for a seventh world crown.
O’Sullivan revealed he was accosted on Saturday in a “nightmare” incident at a Sheffield city centre restaurant, and will now cut back his appearances in public in order to minimise the risk of being forced to withdraw due to a positive test later in the tournament.
O’Sullivan, who said that two members of the restaurant’s staff had been forced to intervene, added: “Ninety-nine per cent of the people are fine but it’s just the odd one who was a bit boozed up and having a mental one. It was so busy and this geezer was a nightmare. He was pissed up and coming at me and I was like, ‘mate, please.’ What can you do? I’ve got to stay indoors and stay away.
“If I didn’t have to be clean for this tournament it wouldn’t matter, but if I reached the quarter-finals it would be a sickener to have to pull out. As a sportsman I can’t work if I get ill so that’s my only problem.”
Nevertheless O’Sullivan welcomed the return of fans to the famous venue, which was filled to 33% capacity as part of a pilot scheme surrounding the return of fans to sporting events, after turning on the style to claim a 10-4 win.
Despite establishing a 6-3 lead O’Sullivan struggled in an error-strewn opening session, but ended it by becoming only the eighth player to make three consecutive Crucible centuries as breaks of 124, 137 and 112 finally saw him ease over the line.
O’Sullivan added: “It was great to have the crowd in there, they miss their snooker and I probably would have given up mentally in that match if there was no crowd there.
“I’d have thought, I’ll get out of here and go home and do a bit of punditry, but because the crowd are here you feel you’ve got to perform because they’ve paid their money and come out to watch. When I think back to my great matches and you see the crowd’s faces and the pleasure that you give them when you play an unbelievable performance, that sticks in your mind that that’s what I’m here to do.”
World Snooker Tour confirmed it had issued written advice to players before the tournament to “be careful” when they are in public areas.
With sanitiser stations provided around the venue, fans had their tickets scanned before sitting in designated seats, socially distanced.
Ventilation has often been an issue in the Crucible and the venue can feel quite hot and stuffy at times, but yesterday, with a limited crowd, it was actually chilly. Ronnie was visibly uncomfortably cold during the match.
There was an unusual incident at the start, as the cue ball needed to be replaced after only three shots. Mark Joyce broke off first and looked puzzled, then Ronnie spotted something on the ball. It was not obvious what it was on the TV image, but Paul Collier asked for it to be replaced.
Here are two interviews with Ronnie by the sponsor, the first before the match, the second after it.
The first round is always a banana skin for the seeds at the Crucible: they come out “cold” against qualifiers who have played a minimum of two matches in the previous week and secured ￡20000 in money and ranking points. If the seeds lose they get their money, but not the ranking points. And, of course, there is additional pressure and expectations on the shoulders of defending champion who plays to a finish on the opening day.
Hopefully, Ronnie can relax a bit now and play better in the next round.