RONNIE O’Sullivan accused the snooker authorities of bullying and intimidating him in a breathtaking outburst at the Betfred World Championship.
The 41-year-old five-time Crucible champion pointed the finger at World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn and his board. And he revealed the extent of his distress at receiving a letter from disciplinary chiefs after he criticised a referee and photographer during January’s Masters.
Hearn last week criticised O’Sullivan, saying his recent behaviour in media interviews was “embarrassing”, following a series of bizarre exchanges. O’Sullivan has deliberately and repeatedly given one-word answers to questions he has faced after matches, while in an ITV interview at the World Grand Prix in February he gave a series of responses in a robotic voice.
Loading article content
This time O’Sullivan struck back, and said: “I phoned Barry up four weeks ago and I said, ‘Barry, I’m done with all you and your board of people’.
“And I’ve got a very good friend of mind who said, ‘Just let my lawyers deal with it’. I won’t get involved with it because I’m not being bullied, I’m not having people doing that to me ever again.
“I’m just fortunate I’ve got a very good friend who’s got very good lawyers and they’ve got my back. I just want to play and have fun.
“I like Barry, but I’m not being intimidated or bullied any more.”
Meanwhile,Yan Bingtao became the first player born this century to play at the Crucible but found Shaun Murphy too hot to handle as their Betfred World Championship match began.
Chinese cueman Yan was born on February 16, 2000, in the week Donald Trump abandoned a presidential campaign that gave him the taste for a run at the White House. The 17-year-old showed the huge talent that many expect will bring him a host of trophies over the course of his career, making a fine 109 break in the second frame. But a seesaw session finished in Murphy’s favour as he eked out a 6-3 lead.
Murphy, the 2005 world champion, has twice lost to Yan in three previous meetings but their first Crucible encounter presented a different challenge to the teenager. Although based in Sheffield, Yan had never played the venue previously while Murphy has abundant experience of the famous theatre.
Murphy rattled in 112 and 118 to surge 4-1 ahead, before shaking off the setback of losing the next two frames by taking control come the session’s end, closing with an 81 break. They play to a finish in the best-of-19-frame match this afternoon.
At the same time, Leeds cueman David Grace was being left frustrated on his own World Championship debut, bowing out 10-6 to Kettering’s Kyren Wilson, who was a quarter-finalist 12 months ago.
In the day’s afternoon other tie, Stuart Bingham leads Peter Ebdon 5-4 which will also play to a finish today.