O’Sullivan Crushes Vafaei In Two Sessions
Ronnie O’Sullivan equalled his most emphatic victory in a best-of-25 frame contest as he beat Hossein Vafaei 13-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship for the 21st time.
The match was billed as a clash of rivals following a series of comments from both players in the build up, but it turned out to be an entirely one-sided contest, followed by a post-match embrace and mutual burying of hatchets.
Vafaei may regret raising the stakes before coming up against snooker’s greatest ever player, as the Iranian cracked under pressure while his opponent was imperious. O’Sullivan strolled serenely passed a series of landmarks during the contest: his 200th Crucible century, his 1,200th career century, and his next match will be his 100th at the Crucible. The scoreline matched his 13-2 defeat of Robert Milkins back in 2002.
The 47-year-old defending champion will have a welcome rest tomorrow morning, having finished the match a session early, and he can look ahead to an intriguing meeting with Luca Brecel on Tuesday and Wednesday. O’Sullivan is just three wins away from becoming the first player to win eight world titles.
Leading 6-2 overnight, O’Sullivan won the first frame today with breaks of 48 and 34. Vafaei should have pulled one back but missed frame-ball green on 59 in the next, and O’Sullivan cleared with 58 to pinch it by a point. A run of 68 stretched his advantage to 9-2.
In frame 12, Vafaei led 47-0 when he overcut a risky red to a top corner, and again his opponent punished him with an 82 clearance. His chances fading fast, Vafaei made another error early in the 13th as an attempted pink to a centre pocket hit the far jaw, and O’Sullivan’s 64 made it 11-2. Just 18 minutes later the match was over as world number one O’Sullivan finished with a brace of centuries, 107 and 116.
Asked about Vafaei’s pre-match comments, O’Sullivan recalled the 2002 World Championship when he stated that he was going to send Stephen Hendry “back to his sad little life” before their semi-final meeting, and ended up losing 17-13.
“I did the same years ago with Stephen and I totally regretted it,” said O’Sullivan today. “I was pumped up by someone else (Prince Naseem Hamed) to say it , it wasn’t what I would have said. Then afterwards I thought ‘why did I do that?’ Stephen didn’t speak to me for two years. He was my hero, why would I want to disrespect my hero? Two years later I apologised and he said it was forgotten, and then we were friends again.
“There are no hard feelings from me, I love Hossein, he is a great guy and a brilliant player. He has not had it easy with his visa issues, it was heart-breaking to see what he had to go through. But he keeps going. He will come back stronger from this. He is well capable of being a top 16 player and he is still young.
“I have been going for a long time. I love the lifestyle. I don’t play snooker for financial reasons, I play it because I enjoy it. It brings joy to the friends who come and support me, and the people watching at home get excited. So I just keep showing up. I’m looking forward to another match at the Crucible. Luca is phenomenal player with amazing talent and he is always getting better.”
Vafaei, the only Iranian to play at the Crucible, said: “He played fantastic, I lost to the greatest ever. No one can play snooker better than him. I got my lesson, in the future I’ll give the same lesson to other players. I have to learn from someone. There was no pressure, I was not nervous.”
Asked about smashing the pack open from the break-off in the second frame – matching a shot O’Sullivan played against him at the 2021 German Masters qualifiers – Vafaei added: “Everyone knows what happened in the past and I didn’t like that at all. Everyone has a tough life so we don’t need to give each other negative energy. So it was in my mind.
“I don’t regret what I said. It was nice for the people, everywhere you looked, snooker was top of the news. If you don’t have me in snooker, it’s a boring place! It’s good to have character, it makes people interested in the snooker.
“It’s completely off my chest now. Whatever he did to me, I have given it back, so I don’t have any reason to be bad with him now. He knew that as well, he said ‘let’s be friends.’ I hope he wins the tournament because he’s too good.
“This year I lost to the greatest, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count. Next year I will be 100 per cent be here and stronger with the help of the people.”