Ahead of his match yesterday, Ronnie looked in good mood and looking forward to play competitively again. It didn’t go to expectations. He was beaten by 4-1 by Alexander Ursenbacher … again
Here are the scores:
Swiss Bliss As Rocket Falls
Alexander Ursenbacher once again proved to be one of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s bogey players as the Swiss ace beat the World Champion 4-1 in the first round of the Cazoo British Open.
Switzerland’s top player Ursenbacher has now beaten O’Sullivan in all three of their ranking event matches – the other two coming at the 2019 Welsh Open and 2020 UK Championship. That’s a remarkable record for a player who won just three knockout matches in the whole of last season and remains in danger of relegation from the pro tour.
Ursenbacher’s mother Florenca surprised her son by making the trip to Milton Keynes to watch him play for the first time since his amateur days, and to her delight he rose to the occasion with a fine display against the reigning Crucible king and world number one. O’Sullivan’s attentions now turn to next week’s Hong Kong Masters.
Breaks of 69 and 45 helped Ursenbacher to a 2-0 lead. O’Sullivan pulled one back, and had a chance to clear from 58-7 behind in frame four, but missed the third last red to a top corner on 16. He was soon 3-1 behind, and world number 63 Ursenbacher wrapped up the result in the fifth with a run of 46.
“I didn’t think my mum was ever going to come over and watch me because of her work schedule,” said Ursenbacher, who now meets Joe O’Connor in the last 64. “It surprised me when I saw her this morning, I was so happy and I thought there was no way I was going to give in tonight. I was really nervous all day, I was anxious and couldn’t eat. She’s the best mum you could wish for but that put pressure on me because I wanted to make her proud.
“Against the best players, it’s the easiest way to push yourself. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to play Ronnie. When I play him I just want to go for it, it’s the ultimate test because he’s the greatest player who has picked up a cue. I always give 100% against him. I just play how I feel and hopefully you will see more of that from me for the next 20 years.
“I have lost weight recently. My cat died in April and that helped because I was so upset I couldn’t eat anything, then after that I didn’t put it back on.”
It’s hard to know why some top players struggle against certain opponents. The most famous example is of course Mark Johnston Allen who has a 100% career record over Stephen Hendry.
Stephen Hendry, in commentary, reflected that he had not seen Ronnie play that badly for years. “He was rubbish” was his assessment of Ronnie’s performance. And, truly, Ronnie was very poor, especially in the first two frames. He had no touch at all, overhit the balls and misjudged his safeties. The only positive is that he continued to try. To be honest, he didn’t play well over the week-end either. Having to rest his arm, he probably didn’t put the work in and it showed.
But it wasn’t all about Ronnie. Alexander played really well. He was extremely efficient and reliable when in the balls. He didn’t miss anything easy. He totally deserved the win, on merit.
Off the table, Ronnie came up with the suggestion that the Main Tour should better support the Women’s Tour, notably by funding it.
Here is what Ronnie had to say about that, as reported by the BBC:
“It’s so wrong that World Snooker haven’t made it better for the girls,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.
“Why can’t they just take 5% off the prize money and give the ladies a good opportunity to play in good conditions?
“I think everyone would support it and back it. You don’t want to be having this conversation even in another two or three years, it should be something that’s done within the next two or three months.
“Decisions can be made quickly and done quickly, and it’s important for the likes of Reanne [Evans] as well because they have been playing a long time and they deserve to have that opportunity.“
About the Mixed Doubles he added
“It shouldn’t be a special event for them, it should be normal,” said O’Sullivan.
“I think the best thing World Snooker could do is make that happen. You see what it’s done for ladies’ football, I was more geed up watching the ladies play than I was the guys. The guys haven’t been able to get the job done but the girls showed them how to win.
“It would be great for the girls to have that opportunity.“
And more specifically about Reanne Evans
“Reanne is a 12-times world champion, that’s some feat. At least let her make it a professional job where she doesn’t have to go out and do other things to make ends meet.
“She’s devoted her life to this game, most people in her situation would have given up snooker but she hasn’t, she loves it.“
To this WST responded
“Our remit is to run the World Snooker Tour for the professional players, including the four women on the tour.
“We felt the Mixed Doubles event over the weekend was fantastic. We are proud of snooker’s inclusivity and to be one of the few sports where men and women can compete together.“
But that’s missing the point. One of the reasons why women struggle so much when getting on tour is because they never play under professional conditions on the Women’s tour and almost all of them have a full time job because there is no money on the Women’s tour. They are also not welcomed in some – too many – clubs … unless behind the bar. It’s not by chance that two of the four who got on the main tour, are On Yee and Mink who both have access to excellent conditions when “at home”. On Yee has funding as well. Reanne was well supported by her family and was able to devote a lot of time to snooker. Most women never get such opportunities. It all highlights how remarkable Rebecca Kenna’s achievements are. She has a full time job. She experienced rejection when trying to play in her local leagues, when some clubs didn’t allow her to play some “fixtures” solely because of her gender. She persisted, worked hard and is now a pro. Last week-end, she showed real qualities. But she shouldn’t have had to go through what she did. It’s baffling that in 2022 there are still clubs that don’t allow women to play. Also too often, unwelcoming behaviours, mocking and sexual “teasing” are tolerated in clubs. I have experienced it myself… and I’m a grand-mother. I have witnessed it many times too. “it’s just banter” or “boys will be boys” are the usual justifications for not doing anything about it. If this was about race instead of gender people would be up in arms.
Neil Robertson supports Ronnie’s ideas as reported by Phil Haigh
‘I think the women have been brilliant this weekend,’ Robertson told The Metro. ‘Hopefully women’s sport can kick off, get some more sponsors, some more funding and they can start to play for really good prizes themselves. Even though the money is increasing, it is still very low so we want to see that increase.’
On O’Sullivan’s five per cent plan he added: ‘It wouldn’t bother me at all – I’m always up for stuff like that. I wouldn’t mind prize money coming off from the top and being filtered down elsewhere where the funds are maybe needed more.“