To say that yesterday at the Crucible was eventful is the mother of all understatements!
Three matches concluded yesterday.
Hossein Vafaei beat Ding Junhui by 10-6. Ding had won the first session by 5-4, but Hossein totally dominated the second session, scoring very heavily. He scored breaks of 87, 117, 122, 68, 57 and 89 in a marvellous display of attacking snooker. Ding, as so often in recent years, appeared to lack fighting spirit once he got behind. His body language wasn’t great.
Hossein’s fireworks on the table were followed by an fiery post-match interview…
Vafaei Stirs Up O’Sullivan Clash
Hossein Vafaei, the flag-bearer for Iranian snooker, won a match at the Crucible for the first time with a 10-6 victory over Ding Junhui in the opening round of the Cazoo World Championship.
Vafaei will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round, over three days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and added spice to the fixture by stoking up rivalry between the pair. “Ronnie O’Sullivan is such a legend, such a good player when he’s on the table,” said Vafaei. “He’s just such a nice person…when he’s asleep.”
World number 23 Vafaei, by far the best ever player from Iran, became the first player from his country to compete at the Crucible last year, losing to Judd Trump. The 28-year-old has now gone one step further thanks to a tremendous display against three-time UK Champion Ding, making two centuries and six more breaks over 50.
Vafaei trailed 5-4 overnight but reeled off the first four frames today in just 43 minutes with runs of 117, 122, 68 and 57 to go 8-5 up. China’s Ding, the 16th seed, pulled one back with a break of 77, but Vafaei bounced back with an 89 for 9-6. Ding had two scoring chances in frame 16 but could muster only ten points, and Vafaei’s run of 45 ended the tie.
His performance was good enough to inspire a standing ovation from the Crucible crowd. However, it was Vafaei’s comments about O’Sullivan which are sure to generate headlines. He referred to a match at last season’s German Masters qualifiers when he scored a 5-0 victory over O’Sullivan, who smashed the pack of reds from the break-off in the last frame.
“Ronnie was my hero,” said the 2022 Shoot Out champion. “I could never see myself beating him. When I beat him 5-0 I was a little bit sad, but on another side happy because I showed I can play. He will remember that, 100 per cent. Play like a man. Don’t play mind games or smash the balls and disrespect me, when 70 million or 80 million people are watching me in Iran. Now he’s my opponent. This is life. I have to stand up in front of him if I want to be World Champion.
“If we want this sport to improve, we need to respect each other, and teach others to respect us. When we don’t respect each other, even the people don’t respect us. We have to teach the children to respect their father and family, and everything will be good.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason, you can’t run away. If you do something bad to the people and break someone else’s heart, then God will give you an opportunity to get revenge.
“He has already proved everything, he has done everything in this sport. Hopefully I will play the way I played today. If he beats me 13-0 I will still love being involved in the match. Get your popcorn everyone!”
As for today’s match, Vafaei added: “It was such a great game, I enjoyed it a lot. I’m a big fan of Ding because he has opened up a massive market for snooker so every one of us should respect what he has done for our sport., I told him before the match that I am his fan, but this is a game and someone has to lose. Hopefully I can show this type of performance more.
“I don’t want to be boring! I love the fans, they pay to come and watch us. Nothing scares me and I enjoy playing in front of them. Sometimes I say something to make them laugh. I know that’s not our job, but it suits some people. If you want to be a champion, you must have the people’s heart.”
Ding said: “The first two frames, he took control. I tried to get it back but he was very good today. He could go far and win more matches.
“Overall this season has been very good. The past two seasons I was not there. Sometimes I have good season, then I disappear for a few seasons and come back again so I will try to be more consistent.”
There were also quotes, not reported above, about Ronnie’s illness just being “excuses”. Frankly that makes no sense at all given that Ronnie had won the match, not even mentioning that he looked absolutely exhausted during the post-match interview.
Now about the incident that apparently upset Hossein so much… Ronnie smashed the pack open at the German Masters qualifiers when he was already 4-0 down. That’s obviously not a great attitude to have BUT was it directed at his opponent? Was it deliberate disrespect? I don’t think so. I’m 100% certain that it had nothing to do with Hossein at all and everything to do with Ronnie hating those qualifiers, hating the venue, feeling unable to get the motivation to apply himself, and as he already was on the cusp of defeat, wanting to get out of there asap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses for Ronnie here, but I’m 100% convinced that, if Hossein believes it was directed at him, he’s completely misreading the situation and Ronnie’s behaviour under the circumstances.
That said, Ronnie is not an innocent lamb and the day before yesterday, had properly taunted Hossein during his own post-match as reported by Hector Nunns:
“Don’t rattle my cage” – Ronnie O’Sullivan hits out at potential next Crucible opponent
Ronnie O’Sullivan eased into the second round of this year’s Snooker World Championship, where he may face Hossein Vafaei, who called for The Rocket to retire last year
Ronnie O’Sullivan has reignited his feud with Hossein Vafaei as the Iranian faces Ding Junhui for the chance to take on ‘ The Rocket ‘ the Crucible.
O’Sullivan defeated Pang Junxu 10-7 in his opening match of this year’s World Championships in Sheffield. Vafaei will be The Rocket’s opponent in the second round if he defeats World No 16 Ding, with their game beginning on Sunday.
Ding is the favourite, though O’Sullivan appears to be relishing the chance to take on the Prince of Persia more. The duo clashed during last year’s World Championships when Vafaei called for O’Sullivan to retire for being ‘disrespectful.
Though he rowed back on those comments, it appears The Rocket has not forgotten Vafaei’s blast. After easing his way past Pang, O’Sullivan, the reigning world champion, hit out at Vafaei and warned him not to spark another feud.
O’Sullivan told Eurosport: “Hossein Vafaei, the man who said…what did he say about me, I can’t remember?” Pundit Alan McManus gave him an answer of: “I think he said you should retire.”
The Rocket then responded: “Has he been saying much this year?. I think he’s learned to be quiet. Don’t rattle my cage! I’m just having fun. I love it when they call me out, I love it when they give me stick.
“I love it, it turns me on, I get off on it. I need it to fire me up so I’m hoping someone says something, so I can have a reason to perform. But they’re not going to say it now, they probably realise it’s not a good tactic.”
Mark Williams beat Jimmy Robertson by 10-5. Jimmy Robertson was leading by 5-4 at the start of the session but didn’t win a frame yesterday. Here is Mark Williams assessment of his performance and the state of his game as reported by Worldsnooker:
“I played really solid today and put the pressure on Jimmy,” said Williams. “He missed a few that he wasn’t missing yesterday. My form has been good this season. I nearly won the Masters. I am still here and still doing it, I am moulding into a solid player all round. My potting is not as good as it used to be but my all-round game now is probably better than it was years ago.
“Sometimes there are long pots which I would have gone for in the past and got them nine times out of ten. These days my eyes are not as good so I turn them down. It will be a tough game against Luca but I’m not worried about anyone else, I’ll just try my best. And if I win the tournament again, this time all my clothes are staying on!”
Mark Allen beat Fan Zhengui by 10-5. That match was interrupted by an unprecedented incident and, credits to both players for refocusing after that and playing a good match. Fan certainly didn’t disgrace himself on his Crucible debut. Here is Mark’s assessment of the match as reported by WST:
“The frame before the interval was really big. If it went 7-6, I think Fan would have been in the ascendancy. His long potting was really good and he was playing some clever safety. To see that pink go over the pocket was huge,” said nine-time ranking event winner Allen.
“I felt like mentally I was ready for anything out there. The work that I’ve done with Paul Gaffney (sport psychologist) over the last 12 months has stood me in good stead. I’ve even practised differently in the build uip. I’ve actually taken my foot off the gas in the last week. Normally, I try to do seven or eight hours a day. I feel like I’ve conserved a lot of energy.
“The bottom line is I haven’t played well enough here. I feel that I’ve always prepared really well. I’ve tried the same thing year on year. It hasn’t worked and I was expecting different results. I’ve tried something different this time and I’ve even done a bit of commentary. Some people have criticised me for that, but I feel I need to try something different to break the monotony of not going well here.”
Now about the incident …
What happened there ??? Here is the report by Phil Haigh
Protester jumps on table during World Snooker Championship match at the Crucible
Phil Haigh Monday 17 Apr 2023 7:23 pm
A protester jumped on the table during a match at the World Snooker Championship on Monday evening, blasting orange powder over the baize.
The first round match between Rob Milkins and Joe Perry on Table One was interrupted as a protester wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ t-shirt leapt on the table.
He opened a small bag which sent orange powder all over the table before he was hauled off.
Another protester attempted to jump on the other table, where Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi were playing, but they were stopped beforehand and removed.
Play was stopped on both tables as a clear-up operation began, with venue staff, World Snooker Tour employees and even MC and commentator Rob Walker joining in to hoover up the powder.
A statement from South Yorkshire Police read: ‘Two people were detained after protesters gained entry to The Crucible earlier this evening (Monday 17 April).
‘A 30-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Both are in police custody.’
Stephen Hendry, the seven-time world champion, said: ‘I have never seen that before at a snooker event. It’s a first.
‘It is scary. Wow! You just hope the cloth can be recovered from that. It caught us all by surprise and then this happens.
‘For me, straightaway as a snooker player I am thinking: “Is the table recoverable?” We don’t know what that is on the table.’
The protest occurred at around 7.15pm and just before 8pm Allen and Fan returned to Table Two, but Table One is to be recovered overnight.
Milkins and Perry will play their first session tomorrow night at 7pm, when they were due to play their first. The second session time is set to be played at 9.30am on Thursday.
Remarkably, Allen was on a break of 24 before the interruption and returned to complete a brilliant century, scoring an immense 126.
I’m a bit surprised. and aggrieved, that Olivier Marteel’s prompt reaction isn’t mentioned. Indeed he immediately wrestled the woman who was trying to climb on “his” table and, aided by WST security got her out of the arena. Without his swift intervention it’s unlikely that play would have resumed at all yesterday evening. Of course, Olivier is a nurse, working at emergency services, he’s used to pressure situations asking for immediate action. As it is, Allen and Fan were able to continue their match, the “Crucible curtain” was opened and the fans were eventually able to enjoy some great snooker
Here are some more images shared on social media
The table was hoovered and protected by a slipcover before play resumed. And yes, Rob Walker is a man of many talents…