Ronnie O'Sullivan's career as the bizarre man of the baize took another lurch towards the pocket of infamy in York yesterday when he conceded his UK Championship quarter-final against Stephen Hendry in mid-match.
Despite being 24 points ahead in the sixth frame - and having the chance to cut the deficit to 4-2 in the best-of-17 encounter - O'Sullivan reacted to a missed cut on a red by shaking the hands of both Hendry and the referee, Jan Verhaas, and marching out of the stunned Barbican arena. In the dressing-room afterwards, O'Sullivan told Hendry: "I'm just fed up."
O'Sullivan last night released a statement in which he apologised both to Hendry and the crowd. "I wish I could have played a better game but I had a bad day in the office," the statement read. "Anyone who knows me knows I am a perfectionist when it comes to my game, and I got so annoyed with myself that I lost my patience and walked away from a game that with hindsight I should have continued. I wish I could have given Stephen a better game, and I'm sorry I did not stick around to sharpen him up for his semi-final.
"I'm also really sorry to let down the fans who came to see me play - it wasn't my intention to disappoint them, and for that I am truly apologetic. I am feeling disappointed with myself and am hurt and numb, but I am a fighter and I will be back on my feet fighting stronger and harder than ever very soon."
Hendry, who went through to tomorrow's semi-final as the official 9-1 winner, said: "I've never seen anything like it in my life. If he's got problems, I feel for him.
"I don't think you can blame the scoreline of the match for Ronnie quitting. He had just got his first frame on the board and was in the balls. He played a bad positional shot, went for a dodgy red and missed it. I knew he had left me in and I was focused on potting a few balls and winning the frame. Then he shook my hand - I was amazed.
"I've not sensed anything from Ronnie backstage. I had no inkling there was anything wrong. Only Ronnie knows what he's feeling."
Hendry was adamant that a well-publicised feud between the pair was not to blame. "There's no bad feeling between us anymore," he said. "I asked if there was anything wrong when he came up and wished much luck and he said, 'No, I'm just fed up, I've had enough'. I'm not going to criticise him."
There was anger in the auditorium, however, as many fans had taken days off work to attend. The organisers announced that their tickets would be valid for today.Reuse content