World Championship 2021: Ronnie O'Sullivan on 'nightmare' fan - 'Harassed like you wouldn’t believe'
World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan was confronted by a "boozed-up" snooker fan in Sheffield as his grim pre-tournament prediction of being confronted by "smotherers" carrying a Covid-19 risk came true at the Crucible. After finishing with three straight centuries in a 10-4 win over Mark Joyce in the first round, O'Sullivan admitted he will need to review his movements in and around the city.
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A disturbing trip to a restaurant in Sheffield has given Ronnie O'Sullivan plenty of food for thought.
Back in the 1980s, iconic snooker players such as Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins and 'Big' Bill Werbeniuk used to chug beer between frames inside the Crucible Theatre almost like a badge of honour, but being forced to confront an inebriated fan these days is about as appetising as thin gruel.
“I was harassed like you wouldn’t believe it. This geezer was a nightmare," said O'Sullivan after beginning the defence of his world title with a 10-4 win over qualifier Mark Joyce in the first round that was finalised with three pristine centuries.
Which is an obvious concern for O'Sullivan and his fellow competitors, but particularly Rocket Ronnie as the sport's headline act.
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Any player who fails a Covid-19 test before the quarter-final will be forced out of the tournament and forfeit the chance of a £500,000 first prize.
For O'Sullivan, that would also ruin his prospects of a successful title defence and the chance to equal Stephen Hendry's modern record of seven Crucible titles.
It I didn't have to be clean for this tournament, it wouldn't matter so much, but if I get Covid I cannot play. would be sickening to get that far. That’s why I’m being careful.
With the UK slowly emerging from its latest lockdown, Sheffield is livelier than last August when O'Sullivan claimed his sixth world title with an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in the final of the delayed 44th Crucible tournament.
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He will face number 16 seed Anthony McGill, a semi-finalist last year, or Ricky Walden on Thursday and Friday for a place in the last eight.
“I enjoyed last year and enjoyed practising at the Crucible then. It was lovely," O'Sullivan told reporters after rolling in breaks of 137, 124, 112, 70, 69, 63, 58 and 58 to progress.
If it’s a problem for me, I will stay somewhere else and come in at the last minute. I’d say 99% of people have been fine. It was the odd one and he was boozed up.
"It's no-one's fault. People have been let out and are out shopping. It's the way it is. Last year it was different and it is different this year. It was so much quieter; you could sit outside last year and have a meal.
"Most people are fed up with these lockdowns and want to leave their lives now. It was one or two. It's the way it is.
"I will find places to go where it is a little bit quieter if I can."