Ronnie O’Sullivan was left fuming after world final opponent Graeme Dott had acquired friend and former coach Del Hill to assist him ahead the world title showdown in 2004.
The Rocket, who had beaten seven-time finalist Stephen Hendry 17-4 in the semi-final, slumped to a four-frame deficit against Dott. O'Sullivan would eventually fight back to win 18-8 but a surprise meeting with Hill in the practice room had left him unable to focus.
“I worked with a guy who worked with me for years – Del [Hill] – and we were good friends and a coach for quite a long time,” began O’Sullivan.
I got to the final and I hadn’t seen Del for eight, nine or ten days and all of his players had got beaten and I walked to the practice room and there was Del getting balls out for [final opponent] Graeme Dott. So straight away my head was gone.
‘I was fuming’ – Ronnie O’Sullivan’s biggest World Championship fall-out…
It has quite the effect on O’Sullivan, something his then-coach Ray Reardon could not fathom.
“This guy that I’d shared my life with, I hadn’t seen him all tournament and yet he’s come up here for the final and it threw me off a little bit. So I didn’t know how to with it. I said to Ray [Reardon] it was like a family member has gone onto the other side and gone against me. Ray couldn’t understand it was and just said to play the game but in my head I couldn’t focus on the game because I was thinking more about that.”
I’ve never really told that story but that’s the truth. I was fuming.
O’Sullivan recovered to win but not before he had it out with Hill.
“I did actually phone him up after the first session and we had quite a heated discussion on the phone. Not on Del’s side, he was quite calm and placid!
I really said what I felt I had to say and I really regret some of the things I said but at the time I really felt it.
“It was just one of those things and we didn’t speak for a long time but I called him about four or five months ago. I pretended to be some Russian dude wanting lessons. I said: ‘Don’t be silly, it’s me Ronnie!’ and he said: ‘Oh hello, how are ya?, and he sent me a text saying good luck before the world championships. So it was just one of those moments."
Eurosport’s exclusive hour-long special ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan: The Joy of Six’ airs Friday 16 October at 10pm on Eurosport 1