2021 NI Open – Ronnie wins his last 32 match

Ronnie beat Alfie Burden by 4-1 yesterday afternoon to book his place in the last 16 today: he will face Yan Bingtao in the afternoon.

Here are the scores:

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - Scores

And the very short report by WST:

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - 1Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a 4-1 win over Alfie Burden to earn his place in the last 16. The Rocket composed runs of 57, 54 and 70 during the tie and will now meet Masters champion Yan Bingtao, who defeated Oliver Lines 4-0.

There is also a more comprehensive report by Eurosport:

Ronnie O’Sullivan dispatches Alfie Burden to power into last 16 of the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast

Ronnie O’Sullivan remains on course to go one better than the previous three renewals of the Northern Ireland Open. After losing to Judd Trump in the final in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the Rocket eased to a comfortable win over Alfie Burden at the Waterfront Hall on Belfast. Up next is a clash with Yan Bingtao

2021 NI Open - L32 - ES - 2

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s impressive start to the Northern Ireland Open continued with a 4-1 win over Alfie Burden.

The world number three beat Stuart Carrington and Andy Hicks for the loss of one frame, and he was never in any danger against Burden.

O’Sullivan complained of a flat atmosphere in his win over Hicks. If he was feeling flat against Burden, he disguised it extremely well as he dominated the contest to ease into the last 16.

The Rocket settled quickly, and a couple of contributions secured the opening frame for the three-time beaten finalist.

Burden, who is back on the tour after coming out of retirement to emerge through Q School, had a chance in the second.

He knocked in an excellent break of 51, but broke down and the gulf in class between the two was demonstrated by a tale of two greens.

Burden got nowhere near his long pot, while one shot later O’Sullivan stroked his effort into the bottom right to set up a steal of the second.

There was disappointment etched on Burden’s face as O’Sullivan picked his pocket in the second, and a wild pot on a red in the third summed up his mood.

“I think the cameraman behind the pocket was in more danger than the pocket,” said Neal Foulds on Eurosport commentary.

O’Sullivan did not pass up the gift horse, as he rolled in a break of 54 to move within one frame of victory.

Burden is no mug, and he showed his quality by taking the fourth in a single visit with a fantastic break of 127 to stop the rot.

O’Sullivan looked unfazed by Burden’s show of quality, and he wrapped up victory in the following frame.

Burden potted an excellent red but missed a brown when attempting to get back to the reds. O’Sullivan pounced in ruthless fashion as he made a difficult table look simple with a break of 70.

Up next in the last 16 is a clash with Yan Bingtao who cruised to a 4-0 win over Oliver Lines.

Mark Williams, who is battling gout, appeared to be moving more freely on Wednesday and he rallied from two frames down to claim a 4-2 in over Jak Jones to set up a meeting with fellow Class of ’92 legend John Higgins.

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - 2

O’Sullivan completes comfortable win over Burden

Ronnie also clarified his previous comments about the atmosphere, insisting that it’s in no way because of the fans

Ronnie O’Sullivan sets ‘flat’ comment straight for Belfast snooker fans: ‘They’re like family to me’

2021 NI Open - L32 - ROS v Burden - 3

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased past Alfie Burden in the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open and then performed a turnaround by hailing the crowds that have been flocking to the iconic Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

O’Sullivan caused a stir earlier this week by labelling the atmosphere at the iconic venue as “flat”.

But the six-time World champion stressed after yesterday’s victory – which sets up a last 16 clash with China’s Yan Bingtao in the £405,000 showpiece – that he would “never criticise any snooker fan”.

“It’s never got anything to do with the crowd, the Belfast crowd,” he said.

“The set-up out there means you can’t get a good atmosphere because there is no-one sitting down the side, so you feel like you’re playing to an empty auditorium.

“When I said it was a flat atmosphere, it’s because you feel like you’re not playing to anyone, you can’t see a crowd.

“The way it was put across, it looked like I was saying it was the fans, but it’s not up to the fans – it’s the auditorium, it wasn’t set up right and that’s no fault of the fans.

“They’ve got three tables so it’s like you’re playing to a scoreboard. When you have fans down the side, they gee you up and keep you going, and it does create a different atmosphere.

“I’d just like to put that straight because every snooker fan, they’re like family to me so I wouldn’t criticise any snooker fan. They’ve helped me through many ups and downs over the years.

“It was never a slight at the crowd, it was more that I think the set-up doesn’t allow it to be a good atmosphere, so it’s difficult playing under those circumstances – that’s what I was trying to say.”

After beating Burden 4-1, O’Sullivan also highlighted the difficulties faced by professionals further down snooker’s food chain.

“I know Alfie well and I felt for him out there. Unless you are at the very top it’s difficult to make a living from snooker. I mean even the extra expense of coming to Belfast instead of playing in England makes it more difficult for some of the players,” said the 45-year-old World number three.

You can actually listen to that part of the postmatch here:

As always with the ES coverage, there are some interesting Q&As.

In this one, reported by Phil Haigh in the metro, Ronnie tells us about the players he sees as better than him in certain aspects of the game:

Ronnie O’Sullivan names players ‘better than him’ at certain aspects of snooker

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day One
Ronnie O’Sullivan is happy to admit that other players are stronger than him in certain areas (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan picked out the likes of John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Kyren Wilson as players better than him in some aspects of snooker, claiming that he is the absolute worst in a couple of departments of the game.

The Rocket was answering question’s in Eurosport’s entertaining ‘Who’s better?’ feature, where players are hit with areas of the sport and they must admit who – if anyone – is better than them.

Always extremely complimentary towards his old rival John Higgins’ game, it was no surprise to see O’Sullivan pick out the Wizard of Wishaw in three categories.

The Englishman reckons the Scot has the edge on him in safety play, temperament and clearing up.

O’Sullivan also gave Kyren Wilson the nod as a better rest-player than him and Neil Robertson as a superior long-potter.


Ronnie O’Sullivan’s ‘Who’s better’ answers

  • Rest-player – Kyren Wilson
  • Safety-player – John Higgins
  • Long-potting – Neil Robertson
  • Temperament – John Higgins
  • Break-building – Tough, but if I was to say someone, probably Judd [Trump]
  • Clearing up – John Higgins
  • Practicing – Everybody
  • Breaking-off – Everybody
  • Being ambidextrous- Nah, I’m taking that one, it’s the only thing I’m better than everybody else at
  • Polishing shoes – Everybody because I’ve never polished them
  • Ironing their shirt – Marco Fu
  • Enjoying themselves off the table – Maybe Mark Williams, he seems to enjoy his life off the table

O’Sullivan reluctantly suggested Judd Trump could be better than him at break-building, but really seemed like he wanted to choose himself, saying: ‘ Tough, but if I was to say someone, probably Judd.’

The Rocket was being humble, but one category he couldn’t deny his greatness in was being ambidextrous, saying: ‘Nah, I’m taking that one, it’s the only thing I’m better than everybody else at.

The 45-year-old was especially self-deprecating, though, when it came to breaking-off and practicing, at which he claimed that every single other professional is better than him.

I’m not so sure about the “practicing” bit. Ronnie always says that he doesn’t practice, but that claim has been challenged many times by fellow players who know him well.

Now onto my views on yesterday’s match… and today’s challenge

I certainly agree that Ronnie’s break-off is dire and it showed again in his match yesterday. He left at least one red for his opponent to go at from every break-off. Also, his long potting wasn’t great; it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t good enough to compete with the best. Those two weaknesses in Ronnie’s game provided Alfie with a lot of opportunities. On the other hand Ronnie competed well, was very good in the balls as always and his attitude was excellent.

Today he will face Yan Bingtao, and, IMO, Ronnie will need to improve to have any chance to win. Yan has been very solid, and if he gets as many opportunities as Alfie got, there is only one winner.

10 thoughts on “2021 NI Open – Ronnie wins his last 32 match

  1. Nertheless Ronnie again was unhappy with people moving and I see that with these roll on- roll off tournaments its hard to have an orderly spectators stream. But still I think the security would have to do more because as we saw Brendan couldnt quite handle it and referees will never be able to have full controle over that.

    • As Csilla writes nothing in defence I want to say I find it extremely harsh what you said to her there Monique, especially on a so called “Ronnie O Sullivan fan website”. It might have been a quality match and Yan might be good for the sport, but what Csilla is worried about – and imo rightly so- is that Ronnie seems to have lost his “killer instinct” to some extent, which is so important in deciders and finals. And reading today what Ronnie said yesterday after the match suggests that I was also right with my previous comments about the venue conditions and that he was not in a “balanced” mood at this tournament. Im sure we agree on that the sport needs a future but you said yourself that something in the tour structure isnt right and these best of sevens are kind of part of the problem I think.

  2. When I saw the draw I figured Ronnie probably wouldn’t make it past Yan.

    It’s becoming increasingly likely that the 2020 World Championship will prove to be Ronnie’s final tournament victory…

    • I wouldn’t be that pessimistic Mark. Both played fantastic snooker. This is by far the best Ronnie has played for a long time. If he can build on it, he will win more I’m sure.

    • I agree, Mark and it is truly depressing. Even though I kind of resigned myself to Ronnie not winning another title, it is still tough to imagine that he will be the one going to the CoC based on ranking.

      Otherwise break-off is pretty dreadful and his longpots sometimes let him down, but worst was that blue and the pink he missed, when he was pretty much set up for a victory. A big pity, especially the pink after that beautiful counter-clearance to force the decider. The season starts terrible.

      • There was nothing “terrible” in this match. Yes. he missed a couple. So have all the players involved in the tournament so far, if you care to watch other players at times. It’s time you stop with the negativity Csilla, or start to look for someone else to support. Trump maybe? After all he’s winning a lot. Of course he’s not 45, close to 46. If snooker depresses you, don’t watch it. It’s that simple. The commentators said that this was actually the best match they saw all season, both played incredible stuff at times. It’s also time, you learn to give credits to Ronnie’s opponents. Yan – who BTW also missed a couple of unexpected ones – played awesome overall. He won this match … as opposed to “Ronnie lost it”. He’s young, he’s good for the sport. And yes I AM fed up with the constant moaning. Hendry, seen by many as the greatest ever, won his last ever title at 36… and it was the Malta Cup … an event that most players teated as a holiday. Get some perspective please. I’m currently watching Higgins vs Williams. They both already made more mistakes in the frame in progress than Yan and Ronnie together all match!

      • But I did not criticize him! Yes, the break-up maybe, but nothing new there and I hate that people get a longpot off his break-off and can win from there, There was a pity about missing the pink, because Ronnie played well, set it up nice for winning the decider and it would have been “right” after that gorgeous counter-clearance.

        To not winning another title I kind of resigned myself since the Welsh (and last year you yourself thought it might be possible while he struggled against Ding at the Worlds) and yes, he is not getting any younger, of course it contributes. But I still want him to advance to the business end of tournaments and he indeed played well and the sad part for me is that despite playing well, he lost.

        And thanks Christian for the kind words.

      • Look Csilla, I know I was harsh and I’m sorry for that. But, please get some perspective, you will be happier for it. Last season wasn’t a disaster. Yes it was disappointing that Ronnie didn’t convert any final into a title, but on the other hand most players don’t even reach five finals in an entire career. Actually the majority of them never even reach one final. Ronnie lost yesterday, despite playing well. At least we saw that his game is in good shape, and he tried hard. And, yes, I agree with Christian, something with the tournament, the setup, the atmosphere … or maybe something within himself wasn’t 100% right.

  3. My husband and I are so very grateful for this blog. Thank you for all the work you do, it’s so complete and comprehensive, no small feat in the complex world of snooker and all that entails. I think you’d have laughed, we’re watching here in Canada and the day prior to Ronnie making the “flat” comment I was doing my usual running commentary to my spouse, I do feel sorry for him (at times, ha). I said something along the lines of “no atmosphere, flat, etc etc, he’s not having any fun, he just wants to get out of there today, get it over with. ” Pat said, “Pam, how do you know? Seriously, how do you know?” Then the next day the “flat” comment got made and I was running around the house waving my phone after reading it out loud to him saying, “Ha! Told you! Told you!” Then we had a day where I said “He’s been misunderstood. That’s not what he means, it has nothing to do with the fans, he loves the fans.” I came to this site today and voila! So there’s a lot of me saying to Pat, “Told you! Told you!” I think it’s beautifully put, how he expanded and explained the earlier statement and fleshed it out. Really well spoken. The joy of watching Ronnie play over the years has been vast for us seated in our chairs in the wilderness. I do get criticized if I say anything mean out loud about the opponents (hashtag #teamronnie) but haha, not like the armchair referee can kick me out, not if he wants any supper. Thank you, Monique. Thank you for keeping us up on the news. I am thankfully off work today so can watch the match. If this small living room was the audience, let me tell you, atmosphere abundant, abundant. With gratitude,
    Pam and Pat

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