‘I’ve got nothing to lose’ says Ronnie O’Sullivan after crushing Hossein Vafaei

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Ronnie O’Sullivan turned his so-called Crucible grudge match against Hossein Vafaei into a demolition job as he won their second round match at the World Championship 13-2 with a session to spare.

O’Sullivan reeled off six consecutive breaks of 50 or more, including his 1,200th and 1,201st career centuries, as he won all seven frames of their match on Saturday afternoon to wrap up what Stephen Hendry, commentating for the BBC, described as a “humiliation”.

Afterwards, O’Sullivan made a point of embracing his vanquished opponent, who had issued some extraordinary pre-match barbs then encountered a wave of criticism for playing a deliberately rash break-off shot in the second frame of the match.

That wild start to the second frame set it up on a plate for O’Sullivan, giving him an early advantage which he mercilessly exploited as he surged into a quarter-final meeting with Luca Brecel and earned a Sunday off into the bargain.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2023 – Day 8 – The Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan gave Hossein Vafaei a hug after beating him with a session to spare (Richard Sellers/PA)

“I play between 50 and 100 matches a year and I’ve got to beat everyone, there’s no point getting fixated with one player and what he did. I don’t say anything to him. That little black book is locked up in my mind and just kind of helped me.”

Vafaei, who had accused O’Sullivan of disrespect over an incident in their qualifying match for the 2021 German Masters, missed a blue in the opening frame on Sunday to set the tone for a stunningly one-sided session, as O’Sullivan mopped up to extend his advantage to 7-2.

Cazoo World Snooker Championship 2023 – Day 8 – The Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan was ruthless (Richard Sellers/PA)

Further breaks of 68 and 83 saw O’Sullivan soar into the mid-session interval 10-2 in front, and there was little respite for Vafaei as two missed pinks in the next served up O’Sullivan for a frame-winning break of 64.

With the prospect of an unscheduled day off looming, O’Sullivan stepped up a gear, reaching his historic century mark to move one away from victory, and then repeating the feat in the 15th frame to complete his first win with a session to spare at the Crucible since 2014.

“It was nice for the people everywhere, you see snooker at the top of the news,” laughed Vafaei. “Snooker is just boring players without me, so it’s good to have a good character. It just makes people more interested in the sport.

“This year I lost to the greatest who ever played this game. He said to me, let’s be friends together again. Everything is back like it was before and I wish him to win the tournament because he is too good for this sport.”

Vafaei said he had kept the decision about his controversial break-off – which mirrored the perceived slight dealt out by O’Sullivan in their previous meeting – to himself but had no regrets about the shot that earned strong criticism from a number of former champions.

“Whatever he gave to me, I gave it back,” added Vafaei. “I didn’t let anyone know anything before. It was something between me, my God and him.

“I said to God, please give me that opportunity to put that back to him again. It’s in my mind, I had to take it off my chest and it happened. I just did it to give him back what he gave to me.”

O’Sullivan issued a chilling warning to his rivals as he indicated he can only improve as he chases an eighth title that will take him clear of Hendry’s record in the list of modern-day greats.

“I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got seven UKs, seven Masters, seven worlds. When you get to my stage you realise you don’t have anything to lose, and you’re only here because you’re enjoying it.

“The people who say I’ve got something to lose are the ones who have something to lose, because their own careers are just going by.”

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