O’Sullivan goes out after thriller

PUBLISHED: 08:54 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:54 26 April 2016

Ronnie O'Sullivan (left) shakes hands with Barry Hawkins are losing in the Betfred World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (pic: Simon Cooper/PA)

Ronnie O'Sullivan (left) shakes hands with Barry Hawkins are losing in the Betfred World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (pic: Simon Cooper/PA)

PA/Press Association Images

Five-champion exits in deciding frame

Ronnie O’Sullivan faces more media scrutiny and pressure than any snooker player in history and admits that has crippled him at times this week after exiting the Betfred World Championship last night.

The Chigwell cueman lost a second-round thriller 13-12 to Barry Hawkins and in fairness to his opponent, the only pressure being applied to ‘the Rocket’ during the incredibly high-quality encounter came from Hawkins.

That O’Sullivan made four centuries and eight further 60-plus breaks yet still failed to reach the quarter-finals, just the second time he has been unable to since 2004, is a testament to the Kent man’s grit and resilience.

Even when Hawkins saw a 12-9 lead evaporate in no time he still responded to win the decider largely thanks to a classy 56 break despite the tricky positioning of the balls.

O’Sullivan had refused to face the media following his first-round win over David Gilbert – earning him a formal warning from World Snooker – but after candidly talking to the assembled press following his defeat, the 40-year-old claims he sometimes struggles with being the most talked-about snooker player ever.

“For various reasons I wasn’t in a fit state to really come and speak to you guys [the media],” said O’Sullivan.

“It wasn’t that I was being arrogant or thinking I’m shirking my responsibilities.

“It’s probably the responsibilities that I feel like I carry that I don’t handle that well. I find it difficult being the figurehead of the sport – all the attention is on me and there is a big expectation from everybody on me, including myself.

“Sometimes I don’t handle that well, but hopefully I have found a way to maybe get through that and don’t have those moments that I have.

“I’ve done well for 25 years and you have little moments in your career where you kind of go a bit brittle. But I feel strong now and I look forward to coming back.”

After slipping 12-9 behind, O’Sullivan simply upped the ante as he compiled breaks of 124, 88 and 63 to level matters at 12-12.

That set him up for a first deciding frame at the Crucible since 2005, but the scrappy nature of the frame ultimately suited Hawkins, who clinched it to record a first victory over O’Sullivan since 2002.

It also avenged any demons following O’Sullivan’s 10-1 rout of the 37-year-old in the Masters final back in January, but the five-time world champion believes a more open final frame would have seen a different result.

“I’m disappointed not to have won that match,” added O’Sullivan. “I knew I had him in the decider and if it hadn’t been that type of scrappy frame I would have fancied my chances strong.

“When a frame goes like that it’s a toss of a coin. I’m a bit ring rusty and if there was a weakness in my game it was definitely on the tactical side.

“My intent was to go and win the match but that last frame suited Barry more than it suited me.”

*Watch the World Championship LIVE on Eurosport, with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ilford Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Ilford Recorder