Anger over left-leaning O'Sullivan

Snooker

Ronnie O'Sullivan's crowd-pleasing display at the Embassy World Championship in Sheffield yesterday afternoon sparked a controversy that could land him in deep trouble.

O'Sullivan qualified for the last 16 with a 10-3 demolition of the French Canadian Alain Robidoux. But he angered Robidoux with his decision to play a number of shots towards the end left-handed.

When Robidoux criticised his Essex rival for being "disrespectful", O'Sullivan hit back in no uncertain terms. "I didn't give him any respect because he didn't deserve any," the 20-year-old from Chigwell said.

"I'm good left-handed, I've made 90 breaks playing that way. In fact, I'm better left-handed than he is right-handed.

"If he wants to act like a baby that's up to him," added O'Sullivan, who resumed their first round contest 7-2 up overnight. "The crowd enjoyed it, that's the main thing."

Robidoux, the world No 20 who is, ironically, holder of the World Trickshot championship, refused to shake hands at the end of their ill-tempered 2hr 55min match.

"Ronnie was being disrespectful to his fellow professionals and should save shots like that for exhibitions. I wasn't playing well and he was rubbing it in. Dennis Taylor occasionally plays left-handed but that's just because sometimes he's reluctant to use the rest.

"That's not a problem for Ronnie because he's a good all-round player and doesn't need to do it. In fact, he shouldn't be allowed to play like that in a professional tournament."

However, O'Sullivan spared the West Midlands based North American, a stablemate of Stephen Hendry, the ultimate humiliation. Earlier this month he took several shots one handed completing victory over Welshman Mark Williams in the British Open at Plymouth.

At the time the unconventional and unorthodox former UK champion suggested: "They all try to copy me so I thought I'd do something different."

The flashpoint came in frame 11 with O'Sullivan clearing up to lead 9- 2. Even though the frame was beyond him Robidoux refused to concede and attempted to lay a number of unsuccessful snookers.

Realising what was happening O'Sullivan declined to go for the pots that would have finished off the job and joined in with the tactical battle.

Eventually with Robidoux trailing 84-41 and only pink and black remaining, O'Sullivan sank the penultimate colour.

Robidoux won his only frame of the second session in the next but runs of 76 and 31 sent O'Sullivan through to a best-of-25 frames meeting against Tony Drago.

Recordings of O'Sullivan's outburst were being studied last night by the game's governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Association, who will then decide whether there is any charge of bringing the game into disrepute to answer.

Stephen Hendry, the defending champion, was also involved in controversy over the weekend, and Steve James had to pay the penalty.

The former Cannock postman was despatched 10-2 by a determined Drago, who had been outraged when Hendry and his manager Ian Doyle had claimed James was the best bet of the tournament after the champion had seen off the determined Jason Ferguson.

"Stephen may be a great snooker player but he is not the best judge," the world No 14 said. "They reckoned I couldn't handle the pressure because my place in the top 16 was at stake," added the Malta-born player, whose victory practically assures him of another season among the elite.

"I may be temperamental because of where I come from but I have got plenty of bottle. I think this performance showed my character but that was the most pressure I've ever played under." Drago now meets O'Sullivan for a place in the quarter-finals.

Dave Harold reached the last 16 with an impressive 10-4 victory over former Crucible semi-finalist Neal Foulds. Harold now meets the 1991 champion John Parrott or Rod Lawler in a three-day last 16 match starting on Thursday.

The world No 16 David Roe, from Derby, showed improved form after a disastrous season to establish a 6-3 overnight lead over Gary Wilkinson. Roe must qualify for the World Championship next season having plummeted to No 31 in the provisional world rankings.

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