Ronnie O’Sullivan Gets Bid For Record Eighth World Title Off To A Winning Start

O’Sullivan beat Pang Junxu 10-7 at The Crucible
22:06, 15 Apr 2023

Ronnie O’Sullivan fought off a bug and survived a brave comeback from debutant Pang Junxu to get his bid for a record eighth world title off to a winning start

The world No1 and defending and seven-time world champion saw off the rising Chinese star 10-7 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield to ease into the second round.

But the Rocket, who looked fatigued in a laboured performance, reckons he will need to be feeling better for his second-round match.


O’Sullivan, 47, said: “I am relieved it’s over, to be honest. I have got a bug from somewhere, I started feeling like this on Friday morning and have been hanging all day.

“Legs, limbs, everything. I can’t wait to bet back to my bed, and my coach is going to have my bum sitting on it a lot the next couple of days.

“I just wanted to get over the line in every frame and it is a horrible feeling. I just wanted to see if I could get through and then if a few days rest will improve things.

“I could go home for a few days – or maybe I should just hang around the Crucible and give everyone my bug. Maybe I am an old man and can’t deal with the pressure any more. It feels like glandular fever – I have had that before.”

“Pang is a good little player and if you give them a sniff, then they come at you. I gave him a few chances and he took them and battled back. But it is a job done, of course.”

In the build-up O’Sullivan admitted what everyone had long suspected - that despite his regular down-playing of snooker’s importance in his priority list, he cares passionately about his major wins.

And successes such as the one over Trump last year, and victory over Mark Allen at the 2018 UK Championship to beat Hendry’s record of 18 majors, were two more obvious examples of raw emotion pouring out.

O’Sullivan will now head home to Essex for a few days, knowing he will play either China’s Ding Junhui or Iran’s Hossein Vafaei in a last-16 clash over the best-of-25 frames that will start on Friday and be played over three days.

Meanwhile Pang’s Crucible experience began badly in almost every sense.

The big prospect failed to negotiate the very first hurdle – which was to come down the famous steps and out into the centre of the arena.

Struggling to find the right door and gap in the curtains backstage, he emerged via some side steps for officials to the amusement of the crowd and MC Rob Walker.

And Pang would only have felt more disorientated after quickly falling 5-0 down in the morning session – despite a break of 50 in the first frame. O’Sullivan had contributed breaks of 61, 53 and 71.

But to his huge credit the youngster, rather than crumbling, battled back to trail only 6-3 by end of the morning’s play, making his own breaks of 56, 83 and a magnificent 133.

Pang needed just one frame to take the Rocket past the first mini-session in the evening and beyond an interval but that looked unlikely after the world No1 forged 8-3 up helped by a break of 82.

However an incredible fluke on the final red of frame 12 saw Pang claw one back and keep the match going a little longer – and then fluent efforts of 78, 70 and 73 added a far greater level of respectability at 9-7 and even raised the possibility of a stunning comeback win.

But O’Sullivan spotted the mounting danger and closed out the contest with a break of 81.

However there were plenty of raised eyebrows of the BBC coverage on day one of the blue-riband tournament, especially with box office No1 and defending champion O’Sullivan as the main attraction.

There was just an hour and half main studio coverage of the morning session of O’Sullivan’s match on BBC2, with the continuation only available on the red button.

Then in the evening main coverage of the match was shunted to BBC4, but with O’Sullivan on the brink and one away from victory coverage was replaced with an episode of Danish crime drama ‘Lost: Those Who Kill’.

And those viewers missed the brave fightback from Pang as he chipped away at the Rocket’s lead.

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