It’s refreshing to see Ronnie O’Sullivan in such good spirits here at the Crucible.
I’ve covered the professional snooker circuit for more than a decade, so I know how temperamental the five-time world champion can be.
But the sport’s most naturally-gifted player was in a relaxed mood yesterday – and he has been for a while to be fair - after he cruised through to the second round with a 10-3 victory over debutant Craig Steadman.
The Rocket played the entire sixth frame in just his socks as he suffered with his landing gear, removing his shoes after complaining of sore feet.
Tournament Director Mike Ganley saved the day by lending the enigmatic star his own pair of size eights.
“I didn’t want to play in my socks but I didn’t want to play in them shoes either,” laughed O’Sullivan. “I got a pair of Mike Ganley’s stinky old shoes and I thought ‘oh no’ but they felt great!”
The Rocket’s humour highlights his laid back demeanour here in Sheffield, and although he’s the favourite to claim a sixth world title, he’s already got one eye on graduating from snooker’s theatre of dreams by taking up media work amongst other projects.
“I’m the type of person that realises it can’t and won’t go on forever, and it’s just about enjoying being out there,” he added.
“It’s a bit like when you leave school. I’m leaving school soon there’s no point leaving here with no skills.
Ideally I’d like to put that on the back burner for another three or four years but you have to look at the whole package sometimes.”
O’Sullivan has been in Sheffield for a week already, playing in some friendly tournaments against rising stars at the city’s Star Academy as well as relaxing with his close friend Damian Hirst – one of a smattering of famous faces who have graced the home of snooker.
Sheffield’s own John McClure, frontman in the band ‘Reverend and the Makers’ is a regular spectator, having been seen around the venue a number of times already this week.
Another Yorkshireman in attendance yesterday was former darts star Dennis Priestley. The two-time world champion knows exactly what it takes to win titles on the biggest sporting stage, and was soaking up the atmosphere at this iconic venue.
In light of it being Ladies’ Day today, we also had a visit from ten-time women’s world champion Reanne Evans, as well as the player who recently dethroned her, Ng On Yee.
Evans is bidding for a two-year tour card on the professional circuit having recently pushed 1997 champion Ken Doherty close in qualifying for the World Championship – maybe we’ll see her back here next year as a first round contender.
Welsh Dragon Matthew Stevens roared to a 10-2 victory over compatriot and close friend Mark Williams, dispelling some of the demons from his loss in the final here 15 years ago.