He made his comeback and conquered, but the journey has only just begun for defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan here at the Betfair.com World Championship.
The ‘Rocket’ showed few signs of rustiness in roaring to a 10-4 first round victory against Scottish journeyman Marcus Campbell. But even the four-time world champion doesn’t know whether his latest “experiment” will be successful.
But O’Sullivan, the sport’s box office star, won’t play again now until next Saturday when this year’s 17-day marathon enters a second week.
“It’s just fun for me to be honest, I don’t really care what happens next” reflected O’Sullivan. “Winning was the icing on the cake, but this is an experiment for me. I didn’t know how I was going to play, but I’m just going to see where it goes.”
Campbell was proud of his performance but annoyed O’Sullivan and the crowd didn’t give him much respect. “It was a bit of a circus out there, I don’t think I get the credit I deserve,” moaned Campbell. “You just wish sometimes O’Sullivan would appreciate some of the things you do.”
It’s emerged Barry Hearn, the World Snooker chairman, has lodged a complaint with the BBC after the broadcasters pulled the plug on coverage of O’Sullivan’s match just before it was due to finish. Rather than show the end of the match, BBC2 bizarrely switched to a repeat of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.
Hearn let his anger out on Twitter and revealed: “Sorry to all snooker fans for the poor BBC coverage last night. Letter of complaint sent to BBC today.”
So not the best of starts to coverage of this year’s showpiece event, but if O’Sullivan can move through the gears there will be plenty of other opportunities to see him in action. However, seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry has stressed the ‘Rocket’ will have to knuckle down if he’s going to stand any chance of eclipsing his record of world titles.
“If Ronnie has got ambitions to beat my record he needs to knuckle down,” said Hendry. “He just has to have one objective over the next few years. He has got the game, but whether he has got it in him to focus and dedicate his life we will have to see. If Ronnie plays to his potential, well he’s the favourite to win the World Championship. Ronnie can be unpredictable when it comes to pulling out of tournaments and saying he wants to quit and then coming back.”
On the table there was an impressive 10-1 victory for Ricky Walden as he avoided crashing out at the first round stage for a third time.
Chester potter Walden dispensed with Nottingham’s Michael Holt to progress having held a commanding 8-1 overnight lead.
Former Crucible winner Graeme Dott resumes today with a healthy 6-2 lead over Peter Ebdon in a repeat of their 2006 world final, one which was remembered for all the wrong reasons as it finished in the early hours of the following morning. .
Weekend results: O’Sullivan beat Campbell 10-4, Ricky Walden bt Michael Holt 10-1, Michael White bt Mark Williams 10-6.Today’s first round matches (10am): Graeme Dott 6-2 Peter Ebdon – plays to finish; Mark Allen v Mark King – max of 9 frames; (2.30pm): John Higgins v Mark Davis – plays to a finish, Stephen Maguire v Dechawat Poomjaeng – max of 9 frames; (7pm): Ali Carter v Ben Woollaston – max of 9 frames, Allen v King – plays to a finish.