Chalk change keeps O’Sullivan cool at World Championships

Ronnie O'Sullivan in action at the 2018 Dafabet Master (pic: Adam Davy/PA)

Ronnie O'Sullivan in action at the 2018 Dafabet Master (pic: Adam Davy/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Ronnie O’Sullivan is sweating the small stuff at a sweltering Crucible and a change in chalk has helped him hack the heat of the World Championships.

A second-round clash with Ding Junhui looked set to go the distance but he took control in the final session to prevail 13-10.

Rival Neil Robertson revealed he has watched O’Sullivan play to pick up some hints on how to deal with the impact of Crucible air-conditioning on cloth, pockets and ball movement.

O’Sullivan says using a chalk specifically designed to reduce bounces off cushions and kicks from the table is helping in a behind-closed-doors Championships like no other.

“I’ve changed my chalk because I felt I was getting a few bounces off the cushions,” said the 44-year-old, who last used the chalk in winning the 2017 Shanghai Masters.

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“That’s probably because there isn’t a crowd and there wasn’t enough heat in the venue. You end up getting a few bounces and this chalk is meant to stop the bounces.

“It felt good. Sometimes you’ve got to adapt.

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“I always use it for damp conditions, when the cushions are a bit bouncy. Most players use it because they don’t get kicks, but I’ve never really got kicks.

“It’s a bit like a runner trying to run in slicks on a muddy cross-country course. You’re better with some spikes under you to help you get some grip.

“You think ‘snooker’s indoors, what can go wrong’ but the weather, the conditions and the heat of the venue affects things.”

O’Sullivan slugged it out with the Chinese for two sessions, ending the first tied at 4-4 and the second at 8-8 in a heavyweight tussle.

But the Essex hero made eight half-century breaks in the closing 11 frames as he stamped his inimitable authority on the match.

A sparkling 117 in the penultimate frame was O’Sullivan at his compelling best. Ding barely left the chair in the final two frames, failing to score in both.

O’Sullivan has missed the second week in Sheffield in three of the last four years, beaten at this stage in 2016 and 2018.

He was famously knocked out by amateur James Cahill in the first round last year.

Mark Williams awaits in the quarter-finals, an opponent who O’Sullivan has beaten in 31 of their 45 meetings on tour.

Williams has taken his foot off the gas in the twilight of his career, a pressure-free mentality which O’Sullivan lives by.

“You’ve got to take the pressure off yourself at some point, there’s only so much you can take,” he added.

“We all love the sport. At 78, Ray Reardon still wants to get his cue out of the case.

“It has to be on your terms at some point. When you’re younger, you’ve got all the hunger and the desire.

“People who are CEOs of companies go to four or five companies in their career to freshen it up. We play one sport, we can’t play golf or start boxing.

“You have to get another hobby or another job to keep you fresh.”

*Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July -16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.

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