The manner of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s victory over Marcus Campbell in the first round of the China Open yesterday was a kind of microcosm of his career.

He shifted from being maddeningly frustrating to sublimely brilliant as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

He should have lost. Campbell had a great chance to lead 4-0 but missed a pink and O’Sullivan seemed to rediscover his enthusiasm for winning. He doesn't look well but can win tournaments even when not at full fitness.

Ronnie splits opinion in a way I find pretty curious as I neither hate him nor think he’s a living deity. But nobody can deny his box office appeal. In every match there is something to keep audiences glued to the screen and this is why he remains the biggest draw in the sport.

Today he plays Mark Williams, who hasn’t beaten him in a world ranking event for ten years.

I suppose this has to end at some time but whenever these two play the match oozes with mutual respect and perhaps there is too much on Williams’s part.

He believes O’Sullivan is still the best player in the game and maybe this affects his own mental preparation.

Williams was so convinced that O’Sullivan wouldn’t travel to Beijing that he stated on Twitter he would bare his backside in Burton’s shop window if he did.

The good news for those wishing to be spared exposure to the Welshman’s posterior is that Burton’s themselves may not be so willing to comply with this wager.

Away from all this, Ali Carter completed what must be a morale boosting 5-4 win over Dominic Dale.

Despite not playing competitively for a while due to illness, Carter started with a century. His top 16 place is under threat and his enthusiasm for snooker low. But winning tends to remind a player of why they chose to play the game in the first place.

Carter now faces Lu Ning, the 18 year-old wildcard who produced a sensational display yesterday to beat Shaun Murphy 5-2.

Forget the rights and wrongs of wildcards, which have been endlessly debated, not least by me: this was a world class performance to stand with any other in this tournament.

From 2-2, Lu made two successive centuries and finished off the clinching frame in a single visit of 68. He demonstrated poise, guts and panache. Murphy sportingly led the applause at the end.

China has been waiting for a bona fide challenger to Ding Junhui. Without getting too carried away, it may have found one.

Today promises to be a thrill ride full of big names and potentially brilliant snooker.

It starts with O’Sullivan v Williams and Judd Trump against Stuart Bingham. Later, Neil Robertson plays Stephen Hendry and Mark Selby takes on Ding Junhui. World champion John Higgins doesn’t even get a TV table for his match with Peter Ebdon.

This is shaping up to be one of the best tournaments of the season.

EDIT: Mark Selby has withdrawn because of a neck injury. It is understood Selby doesn't want to exacerbate the injury ahead of the World Championship.


Anonymous said...

For a player who for the vast majority of his career has been very happy to skip under the media spotlight if he can, Williams recent change to be more in the public domain may well be having a detrimental effect on him.

His recent change of direction from once being a very private person (hence his initial refusal to accept his MBE) to now disclosing most things via a social media site has coincided with his recent decline, and it would be no surprise if he struggles in his first round match in Sheffield.

Recent online spats with O’Sullivan as well as making tongue in cheeks comments that are then repeated across blogs doesn’t help Mark, nor does having some anonymous character using your twitter account to threaten to harm your children.

Williams will be far better served doing what he has done for years. Practicing hard without posting everytime he misses, keeping his thoughts and comments private and concentrating on what he does best, playing snooker.

John McBride said...

Firstly….When I see/hear things like this “nor does having some anonymous character using your twitter account to threaten to harm your children.” That worries me. On that point, I was however pleased to see the idiot that spoke horribly on Twitter about Fabrice Muamba go to jail. I’d like to see the person who said that to MJW also go to jail. After MJW has met the fella first course…..

Back to the Snooker…
When things go wrong for any team or any player, most of us try to see into what & why this has happened? Is it down to Twitter? I doubt that. Does it help? Probably not. It’s a mental challenge overcoming someone who consistently beats you. Somehow, players need to put blinkers on, concentrate solely on the balls, not even look at your opponent & meet the mental challenge head on. MJW has proved how mentally tough he is & with a potential 2nd round match coming up for him in the Crucible, he needs to get back in that zone pdq. I hope for both his & the games sake he does because when MJW is in full flow, he is incredibly brilliant. Good luck to him too.

Anonymous said...

Dave, if Burton's don't want to comply maybe get in touch with Ann Summers? Their brand might well be up for some cheeky window dressing on a Saturday afternoon. Mark might want to try on some lacey stuff to go with it.

Anonymous said...

Good see Ali in a quarter final again after his trouble with Crohn's.

As for Lu Ning, I hope he'll be back at some point with a DIng like run. I'm sure Ding was a wildcard for a few years and lost early in tournaments before, so I'm not counting Lu Ning out after one loss.

Anonymous said...

Great win for Peter with much needed ranking points.

I do not think there is currently a fitter player on the circuit, he looked incredibly healthy in Crondon Park recently.

Hopefully he can string some results together and head back up the rankings.


Hi David. A great day's play again, in my view.