Mark Williams has warned Hossein Vafaei he may have “woken the beast” by taunting Ronnie O’Sullivan ahead of their grudge clash.
Fiery Iranian Vafaei, 28, has been involved in a bitter running feud with the world No1 and defending seven-time world champion.
Last year he told the Rocket to retire, slamming him for a lack of respect towards other players including himself.
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And this week he said “O’Sullivan is a nice person…when he’s asleep”, suggesting God will help grant him revenge over the 47-year-old for a perceived slight at the table two years ago.
O’Sullivan has weighed in himself, telling Vafaei not to “rattle his cage” and that those who do tend to get slapped down. The watching snooker world cannot wait for Friday’s last-16 match.
And three-time world champion Williams, 48, said: “Maybe once about 20 odd years ago I felt disrespected by Ronnie when he started clearing up the colours.
“He kept his hand on the cloth playing four or five balls, played a couple of shots left-handed, but I certainly don’t worry about that anymore. It bothered me for about two minutes.
“But why would you want to wake up the beast? If I was Hossein I’d probably keep my mouth shut and try to beat him rather than say stuff to rile him up.
“He’s only going to want to beat you even more. I’ve learned over the years that it’s best to keep your mouth shut.
“I’ve probably riled everyone up on the circuit at one stage or the other, including the officials I should imagine, but if I have done it it’s not been nastily.
“It’s up to Hossein what he wants to do. I won’t be having a go at Luca Brecel before I’m playing him next. I’m just going to try and do my talking on the table.”
However, player of the season Mark Allen likes to see other players standing up to O’Sullivan – as long as it is genuine and not just trash-talking for the sake of hype.
The world No3 from Northern Ireland said: “Only time will tell if what Hossein has said was a good or bad idea. He could lose now and everyone will say it’s because he said what he said.
“But also he could have said nothing and still lost! If you are an opinionated person like Hossein is, then say what’s on your mind – within reason, of course.
“I feel like too many players shy away from saying stuff about Ronnie. He has said plenty about other players on tour over the years, so why not?
“I don’t like trash-talking just to hype things up. Why say it if it’s not true? If I say I don’t like someone, it’s because I don’t like them – not to try and sell tickets.
“So I don’t agree with it for the sake of it. But I always thought him and Ronnie got on well, so I was a bit surprised. But it makes for a good story, and gives us players a laugh too.”
Williams, though, was quick to emphasise that there will be no repeat of the rash promises from five years ago that led to him doing a winning press conference naked – bar a towel provided by sponsors Betfred.
The Welshman had in carefree fashion made the vow early in the tournament, but then surprised and delighted himself by going on to win a third crown fully 15 years after his second one.
Williams said: “Absolutely no chance, nothing. Same as 2018, it’ll be daylight when I walk out of the hotel wherever the after party is that’s for sure.
“But that was a one-off. The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was that Barry Hearn burst into my dressing room with a towel to put on.
“I was going to come in here with nothing. I should thank him really, but I didn’t want it on. He was just saying you have to because of the watershed.
“It was embarrassing enough but he saved me more embarrassment. I didn’t want the towel on but he insisted I had it on.”
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