2023 Crucible – Day 8 – A war ends in friendly embrace as Ronnie and Jak Jones win

Two matches concluded yesterday and both generated massive headlines…

Ronnie beat Hossein Vafaei by 13-2

The big grudge match ended up in smiles and friendly embrace … no hard feelings left. And that was good to see!

Ronnie and Hossein rekindle their friendship …

Here is WST report on the second , and last, session

O’Sullivan Crushes Vafaei In Two Sessions

Ronnie O’Sullivan equalled his most emphatic victory in a best-of-25 frame contest as he beat Hossein Vafaei 13-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship for the 21st time.

The match was billed as a clash of rivals following a series of comments from both players in the build up, but it turned out to be an entirely one-sided contest, followed by a post-match embrace and mutual burying of hatchets.

Vafaei may regret raising the stakes before coming up against snooker’s greatest ever player, as the Iranian cracked under pressure while his opponent was imperious. O’Sullivan strolled serenely passed a series of landmarks during the contest: his 200th Crucible century, his 1,200th career century, and his next match will be his 100th at the Crucible. The scoreline matched his 13-2 defeat of Robert Milkins back in 2002.

The 47-year-old defending champion will have a welcome rest tomorrow morning, having finished the match a session early, and he can look ahead to an intriguing meeting with Luca Brecel on Tuesday and Wednesday. O’Sullivan is just three wins away from becoming the first player to win eight world titles.

Leading 6-2 overnight, O’Sullivan won the first frame today with breaks of 48 and 34. Vafaei should have pulled one back but missed frame-ball green on 59 in the next, and O’Sullivan cleared with 58 to pinch it by a point. A run of 68 stretched his advantage to 9-2.

In frame 12, Vafaei led 47-0 when he overcut a risky red to a top corner, and again his opponent punished him with an 82 clearance. His chances fading fast, Vafaei made another error early in the 13th as an attempted pink to a centre pocket hit the far jaw, and O’Sullivan’s 64 made it 11-2. Just 18 minutes later the match was over as world number one O’Sullivan finished with a brace of centuries, 107 and 116.

Asked about Vafaei’s pre-match comments, O’Sullivan recalled the 2002 World Championship when he stated that he was going to send Stephen Hendry “back to his sad little life” before their semi-final meeting, and ended up losing 17-13.

I did the same years ago with Stephen and I totally regretted it,” said O’Sullivan today. “I was pumped up by someone else (Prince Naseem Hamed) to say it , it wasn’t what I would have said. Then afterwards I thought ‘why did I do that?’ Stephen didn’t speak to me for two years. He was my hero, why would I want to disrespect my hero? Two years later I apologised and he said it was forgotten, and then we were friends again.

There are no hard feelings from me, I love Hossein, he is a great guy and a brilliant player. He has not had it easy with his visa issues, it was heart-breaking to see what he had to go through. But he keeps going. He will come back stronger from this. He is well capable of being a top 16 player and he is still young.

I have been going for a long time. I love the lifestyle. I don’t play snooker for financial reasons, I play it because I enjoy it. It brings joy to the friends who come and support me, and the people watching at home get excited. So I just keep showing up. I’m looking forward to another match at the Crucible. Luca is phenomenal player with amazing talent and he is always getting better.

Vafaei, the only Iranian to play at the Crucible, said: “He played fantastic, I lost to the greatest ever. No one can play snooker better than him. I got my lesson, in the future I’ll give the same lesson to other players. I have to learn from someone. There was no pressure, I was not nervous.”

Asked about smashing the pack open from the break-off in the second frame – matching a shot O’Sullivan played against him at the 2021 German Masters qualifiers – Vafaei added: “Everyone knows what happened in the past and I didn’t like that at all. Everyone has a tough life so we don’t need to give each other negative energy. So it was in my mind.

“I don’t regret what I said. It was nice for the people, everywhere you looked, snooker was top of the news. If you don’t have me in snooker, it’s a boring place! It’s good to have character, it makes people interested in the snooker.

It’s completely off my chest now. Whatever he did to me, I have given it back, so I don’t have any reason to be bad with him now. He knew that as well, he said ‘let’s be friends.’ I hope he wins the tournament because he’s too good.

This year I lost to the greatest, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count. Next year I will be 100 per cent be here and stronger with the help of the people.”

Here are the scores and stats for that match:

Here are some more pictures… thanks to Tai Chengzhe … plus some shared on social media.

Plus some reactions

And here are the 14th frame, Ronnie 1200th century, and the 15th final frame, shared by Eurosport on their YouTube Channel

There is not much to add to all that. Ronnie was very focused. He will now face Luca Brecel and, although Ronnie played well, he may need to cut off the odd mistake here and there because Luca himself played at a very very high level to beat Mark Williams.

Interestingly, Ronnie was briefly in the ES studio with Jimmy White and Alan McManus at the start of the evening session and mentioned that Steve Peters forbids him to go running… hence he’s practising more. The latter though is probably not the reason for Steve Peters “running interdiction”. I think this is because Ronnie tends to overdo it, especially when he has time on his hands, and then comes into matches tired and unable to concentrate as hard as he needs to.

And Ronnie’s reward was …

A dinner with friends ….

Jak Jones beat Neil Robertson by 13-7

Jak Jones is a Crucible debutant but he played very solid snooker to beat Neil Robertson by 13-7 yesterday afternoon.

Here is WST report on that match:

Jones Stuns Robertson To Make Quarters

Jak Jones continued his dream Crucible debut with a 13-7 defeat of world number six Neil Robertson to make the last eight of the Cazoo World Championship in Sheffield.

World number 52 Jones is enjoying the best run of his career to date, having come through a perilous route to earn his place in the quarter-finals of snooker’s greatest event. The Welsh qualifier scored an impressive 10-8 Judgement Day defeat of 2013 Crucible runner-up Barry Hawkins to make the final stages. Jones then took full advantage of that victory by beating two-time World Championship finalist Ali Carter 10-6 in the opening round.

The guaranteed £50,000 prize for making the quarters far surpasses Jones’ previous biggest career payday of £13,500, for reaching the last 16 of the 2019 International Championship. He now faces player of the season so far Mark Allen for a place in the single table semi-finals. They kick off their last eight encounter on Tuesday morning at 10am.

Robertson’s recent woes in Sheffield continue and the quest to add to his solitary World Championship win in 2010 goes on. The Australian has proven himself as one of snooker’s greats since then, racking up a further 18 ranking titles to take his career total to 23. However, he has toiled at the Crucible and hasn’t made the semi-finals since 2014.

Jones led 10-6 going into the concluding session and looked set to extend his lead until he missed a red to a centre pocket on 53 in the opening frame today. Robertson took advantage with an 83 clearance, then had chances in frame 18, but crucially missed a mid-range yellow when he led 50-41, and Jones made an impressive colour clearance for 11-7.

In the 19th, Robertson led 33-15 when he missed an awkward red to a top corner. Jones countered with 47 and survived his opponent’s efforts to get the snooker he needed on the colours, to go 12-7 ahead. The Welshman then finished the contest in perfect style with a 138 total clearance, the highest break of the match.

To beat Neil in the World Championship, in such a venue and in front of such a crowd is a big win,” said 29-year-old Jones. “I’m not the most outlandish or angry person in the world. None of my family are either. I just try to take everything as it comes and keep going.

I’ve felt calm since the beginning. Before the tournament started, I didn’t have any idea how I was going to feel going out there. I was surprisingly calm and enjoyed it.

I felt really good on the practice table ahead of yesterday’s evening session. It was nice to be able to take that out into the arena and perform well out there.

Mark is the best player of the season and he is playing extremely well. Neil was playing extremely well too though and so was Ali Carter before the tournament. They are all very difficult matches, whoever I play. I will just try my best and see where it takes me.”

Robertson said: “It was a different test, the complete opposite style of play. He did all the simple things really well. I have played him before so I know how tough he is, and he has improved a lot as a player. His safety was incredible throughout the match. I put him in awkward positions and then I would come back to the table in a worse position.

I couldn’t create the chances to make the frames open. I made it too easy for him – gave him too many easy openers. Today he was there for the taking, that’s what is disappointing. I made a good clearance to go 10-7, but then missed the yellow in the next frame. If I had gone 10-8 I probably wouldn’t have been favourite. He held himself together well and made a great break in the last frame. He will be a tough match for Mark Allen if he plays the way he did yesterday.”

Jak Jones is a solid match player. He’s not spectacular but he’s very effective in what he does. Neil Robertson’s record at the Crucible is rather awful for a player of his quality. Yes, he won it in 2010 but since he has reached the one table setup just once.

As mentioned above, Jimmy and Alan were in the studio at the start of the evening session and Neil’s poor Crucible record is one of the topic they discussed. Alan offered the opinion that what Neil is lacking is a proper, strong, hard match-play game. That’s an interesting point and reading Neil’s quotes above, I think that Alan nailed it. I underlined one sentence above because I believe that this is the key. Indeed Neil isn’t adaptable enough. He has only one game and when he fails to dictate the style of the match he’s in trouble. The Crucible is a long-distance type of competition and that favours the “match-players”, like Mark Selby or John Higgins. Ronnie prefers a more open game, but he can play tight when needed. Mark Allen has become very much adept of a tighter game. Mark Williams in totally versatile. Neil isn’t.

5 thoughts on “2023 Crucible – Day 8 – A war ends in friendly embrace as Ronnie and Jak Jones win

  1. Won minimum Best of 25 match: [Cuetracker]
    SH50; RO’S50; SD48; JH40 (if beat Kyren ; ))
    “Step by step…!”

  2. Ronnie’s approach to the matches thus far makes it obvious (which it was, already) that he has been pacing himself this season and not really trying his hardest to win previous events. He’s clearly trying to win this one.

    He has gotten fortunate with the draw, in the sense that his path to the final won’t include Ding, Williams, Trump, Robertson, Higgins, or Selby. That said, Brecel and (presumably) McGill would not be easy matches, and a Final against Higgins/Selby would be scary…

  3. I was happy to hear that Steve Peters is with Ronnie again and also that he doesn’t let Ronnie run. Yes, he overdoes it sometimes and then it’s detrimental to his game, because he is tired. Whatever happens in the next round, at least make conditions as good as possible. Btw I love Alan’s insights to the game.

  4. love this
    Great blog post! It was interesting to read about Ronnie and Hossein’s match and their post-match embrace. It’s also impressive to see Ronnie’s career milestones during the match. My question for the author is, do you think Neil Robertson’s lack of a strong match-play game is what’s been holding him back at the Crucible?

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