2021 English Open – Ronnie wins his last 128 held-over match

After his poor display in the 2022 German Masters qualifiers, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ronnie, but I’m pleased with what I saw yesterday.

Ronnie beat David Lilley by 4-1 to book his place in the last 64 of the 2021 English Open, where he will face Michael Georgiou. That match is scheduled to be played tomorrow afternoon.

Here are the scores of yesterday’s match

2021 English Open - L128ROS- Scores

David Lilley is a solid player, he’s the current World Seniors Champion. As an amateur, he has won the English Amateur Championship three times andhas been EBSA European Champion. He’s dangerous and Ronnie looked vulnerable in the first frame.

After that however, Ronnie played well. He looked focused and didn’t rush anything. His long potting was excellent (100%), his pot succcess was above 95% and his safety was good as well. There was only one weaker point, the break-off … as ever.

Here is the report by WST:

Rocket Off To A Flyer

2021 English Open - L128ROS- 1

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a 4-1 win over amateur David Lilley to earn his place in the second round of the BetVictor English Open in Milton Keynes.

The six-time World Champion is aiming for a first title in over a year this week, his last silverware came at the 2020 World Championship. O’Sullivan did reach five finals last season, but was defeated in each of them.

He came to Milton Keynes off the back of a out of sorts showing at the recent BetVictor German Masters qualifying in Cannock. The 37-time ranking event winner succumbed to a 5-0 whitewash defeat against Iranian number one Hossein Vafaei.

Lilley started fastest this evening and a runs of 55 and 34 gave him a surprise early lead. However, 45-year-old O’Sullivan racked up four frames on the bounce, including runs of 65, 58, 80 and 100, to storm over the line a 4-1 victor. Next up he faces Cypriot Michael Georgiou.

Afterwards the Rocket praised Milton Keynes and the Marshall Arena for hosting the circuit during the pandemic.

O’Sullivan told Eurosport: “I like Milton Keynes. It was good to us last year. To have the crowds in here, the table was playing well and they got excited. I suppose it must have been frustrating for the local people to have snooker here all year and not be able to come. It is nice to be able to bring a tournament back here. We were here so much last year and the fans didn’t get to come and see it, at least the locals have been able to support the tournament.

I’ve gone back to the John Higgins cue action. I know it might not look the same, but if you can replicate in your head what he is doing. I have a bit more touch and feel and it is a bit more compact. He plays the snooker I’d like to play. I’ve always believed your technique dictates how you hit the ball.

The quotes about Milton Keynes definitely suggest that Ronnie is in a better frame of mind. Hopefully it lasts. The part about John Higgins cue action is interesting as well. You can’t improvise a change of cue action. Ronnie has put some work in ahead of this tournament and it showed.

Phil Haigh though reports on Ronnie’s retirement plans … but it’s not going to happen tomorrow

Ronnie O’Sullivan reveals retirement plan and idea for ‘swansong around the world’

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Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Getty Images

Ronnie O’Sullivan has set out his plan for retirement, saying he intends to play in three more World Championships and then head out on a global tour playing for his fans.

The Rocket made relatively short work of David Lilley in the first round of the English Open on Monday, setting up a second round clash with Michael Georgiou on Wednesday.

His thoughts were not really on the tournament after the win, though, looking years ahead rather than days as he contemplated hanging up his cue.

The six-time world champion feels detached from the sport, a decision he consciously made around seven years ago, but one that means he feels he is now nearing the end of his playing days.

Once you’re detached you’re detached,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk. ‘If you’re in it then every tournament’s a big tournament, I wanted to win everything years ago but now I’m totally detached.

I’m not interested in that, I just go out there and play. Treat it like a good holiday and enjoy myself everywhere I go.’

Asked whether he could reattach himself to the game at which he is considered the greatest of all time, O’Sullivan believes there is a way, but it is very unlikely and instead he has set out his path to retirement.

If the game took off in China and it got exciting and every tournament was a very, very good tournament then I’d be prepared to invest my time for the year and focus on being a very good snooker player,’ he said. ‘But I don’t see that happening.

So if I get another three World Championships, I’ve got a goal to keep me playing for at least another three World Championships.

Once that comes it might be a good time, I’ll be 49 then, it might be a good time to focus on other things I’ve got going on and just focus on them.

The Rocket won his sixth World Championship title in 2020 (Picture: PA)

While I’m able to just mess about with the game and get a few results then it’s alright. Listen, if I wasn’t getting any results I probably wouldn’t even play at all because I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself or get to the point I was that bad that people say, “what’s he doing still playing?”’

The 45-year-old is not just thinking about the last few years of his competitive snooker, but intends to put on a show beyond that, plotting a global extravaganza, lasting at least two years.

At the end of the day, once I do finish playing I’ll probably do a two or three year swansong going round the world,’ he explained. ‘Just playing snooker for the fans as a testimonial, I’d enjoy that.

I do enjoy playing it’s just when you’re at a tournament you’ve got to be prepared to hurt out there and I don’t want to hurt, I’m not invested in it enough to want to go through that. I’m in a good place, that’s important as well.

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O’Sullivan seems content with his career winding towards an end (Picture: Getty Images)

O’Sullivan’s believes that his desire to genuinely compete with the other top players in the world has ebbed away, and while he can still play to an exceptional standard, he will not be expelling any pints of blood over it.

My heart’s gone out of it,’ he said. ‘Even me turning up and slinging me cue at  a few balls, I’m still good enough to be a top eight player.

That’s me just playing outrageous exhibition snooker. I’m not prepared to do a [Mark] Selby and grind it out. I don’t care that much. There isn’t a player in the world that I’d want to be, for all the effort they put in for what they get out, I just think, “you can keep that one mate.”’

Such has his passion been drained, that the 37-time ranking event winner is treating snooker more like a job than he ever has, motivated as much to rustle up commercial deals as he is to win more silverware.

I’m really not that bothered,’ he said. ‘I just go out there and treat it like an exhibition match, hit a few balls and it serves a purpose, it’s okay, it’s alright.

Ronnie clair-obscur
O’Sullivan claims to get no enjoyment from the game anymore (Picture: Getty Images)

My agent said to me it’s a lot easier to do commercial deals for me while I’m playing snooker so I’ve got to show up and play, but I’m very, very detached from it.

As long as I play alright now and again and for an old bloke put in a few decent performances and do myself half justice, that’s all I need to do.

There’s nothing left to prove and there’s nothing left in snooker that excites me. The hunger and desire has gone. Seven or eight years ago I decided that snooker wasn’t something I wanted to fully embrace but I had to at least try and work for me and treat it like a job.

I don’t get upset if I lose, I don’t get too excited if I win either. I’m not prepared to break my balls. If it’s going well great, if it’s not then an early bath is not too bad either.

Given the hour of publication (around 9:30 pm) , I can only suppose that this interview was done before yesterday’s math. That Ronnie’s intensity isn’t  anymore what it once was , we all know it, the signs are there for all to see, but he certainly didn’t play like someone who is totally detached yesterday. My guess is that, although that’s how he sees it when away from the table, once he is at the table, more often than not the competitive beast within wakes up. It never goes away. I’ve seen it countless times in Seniors events. It doesn’t matter how far from their best they are, once at the table, the great champions of the past are still competitive, the desire to win is still there.

I have put one bit in bold. Seven or eight years ago, bring us back around the time of the 2014 defeat to Mark Selby at the Crucible. That one hurt badly, really badly, and I can imagine that it is a natural thing for the human mind to try to protect itself from further huge pain. I guess that winning the world in 2020, beating Mark Selby in the semi-final, and the way he beat him happened, provided Ronnie a kind of “closure”, but at the same time left him a bit “empty” if that makes sense.

That said… three World Championships… that’s minimum two and a half seasons. Knowing Ronnie he’ll change his mind at least 30 times until we get there! 😂😉 for better or worse, time will tell …

Here is (part of) the actual interview …