Hossein Vafaei steps up war of words with Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible

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Hossein Vafaei stoked up his rivalry with Ronnie O’Sullivan after setting up a mouth-watering clash with the defending champion at the Cazoo World Championship.

Vafaei produced a brilliant display of scoring to beat Ding Junhui 10-6 in the first round on Monday, setting up a grudge match with seven-time champion O’Sullivan in the last 16 at the Crucible on Friday.

It will be the first time the pair have met since Vafaei called on O’Sullivan to retire last year and stated he was “not good for the game” and “sometimes disrespectful” with his comments about other players.

Asked about O’Sullivan after his victory over Ding, Vafaei suggested O’Sullivan was a nice person when he was asleep and even put on an Essex accent as he criticised the world number one for always making excuses.

“I think Ronnie O’Sullivan is such a legend, he’s such a good player when he’s on the table,” Vafaei told BBC Sport.

“He’s such a nice person when he’s sleeping you know? You know what I mean. It’s going to be a great match for the people. I think every sport needs to have some people like us.

“I don’t have anything to lose. If he beats me for example 13-0 it’s still the start of my career. I don’t fear him.

“If I beat my hero, (who) used to be my hero, I’m going to be dangerous for the tournament. I’m not going to disrespect all the players because I’ve seen so many players playing well as well, (but) it’s going to be great if I go to the final.”

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan during day one of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (Richard Sellers/PA)

When reminded of Vafaei’s comments following his victory against Pang on Sunday, O’Sullivan told Eurosport: “Has he been saying much about me this year? I think he’s learned to be quiet.

“Don’t rattle my cage. I love it when they call me out, I love it when they give me stick. I just love it.

“It turns me on. I get off on it. I need something to find so I’m hoping someone says something and hopefully I get better so I can have a reason to perform.”

Hossein Vafaei
Hossein Vafaei beat Ding Junhui 10-6 in the first round of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship in Sheffield (Richard Sellers/PA)

Ding stopped the rot after the mid-session interval with a break of 77, only for Vafaei to end a safety exchange in frame 15 with an audacious plant into the middle pocket, despite the cue ball being tight on the cushion.

That led to a break of 89 and Vafaei wasted little time in sealing an impressive win in the next frame.

In the morning’s other match, Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen held off a fightback from China’s Fan Zhengyi to open up a 6-3 lead.

Fan trailed 5-0 before taking the next three frames in quick succession with the aid of breaks of 122 and 110, but Allen took the last frame of the session in a contest which plays to a conclusion on Monday evening.

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