Snooker: O'Sullivan returns as Artful Dodger but leaves as the Rocket
Wednesday 17 January 2007
Shortly after 4.30pm here yesterday at the Saga Insurance Masters, Ronnie O'Sullivan acknowledged prolonged applause with a wave of his arm and a punch of the air. Following his walk-out at 4-1 down to Stephen Hendry in last month's UK Championships, for which he still faces the prospect of disciplinary action, it was as if the double world champion had never been away.
A 6-1 win over his former practice partner Ally Carter that included two century breaks and two in the 90s earned him a quarter-final against Ken Doherty and reminded all that, when the mood is on him, O'Sullivan can reduce this complex game to a thing of simplicity. Such is genius. But on a day when O'Sullivan did all that was expected of him, save for submitting to a press conference, it emerged that the Masters might easily have seen another high-profile absentee: none other than the world champion, Graeme Dott.
The Scot revealed after losing 6-2 in his opening match against Stephen Lee that he had considered missing the event because of a pressing personal concern. It later transpired that Dott's wife, Elaine, recently visited hospital for an early pregnancy scan which showed up a possible cyst or cancer, the test results for which will be known within a couple of days.
"What's happened is much more important than snooker," Dott said.
O'Sullivan's career has veered periodically towards oblivion since he emerged as this event's youngest winner in 1995 aged 19. Yesterday he maintained his refusal to elaborate on the "personal reasons" why he had not finished his previous match. Given his unpredictability, there was a faint air of tension in the arena before he made his official return to the fold.
O'Sullivan entered, bearing his cue and the ghost of a smile. He looked more like the Artful Dodger than a Rocket, but after a cautious opening he lived up to his soubriquet with a break of 91 that left his 27-year-old opponent, who has broken into the top 16 this season, looking dazed. It might have been a case of pre-traumatic stress disorder.
"I wasn't sure what sort of reception I would get today," O'Sullivan said afterwards, before speculating on a winner. "Whoever here finds form, you have to fancy them." By that reckoning, the bookies are not wrong to have him as 3-1 favourite.
Carter said: "I tried to tell myself beforehand just to play the balls. But Ronnie potted them all."
Latest in Sport
Louis van Gaal denies problem with Wilfried Zaha despite Manchester United forward being given no game time
Calum Chambers: Who is Arsenal's £16m right-back target?
Manchester United latest: Angel Di Maria move no closer as Juan Mata emerges as Louis van Gaal's favoured No 10 as prospect of signing
Arsenal transfer news: Versatile Calum Chambers is a 'gamble', admits Arsene Wenger as Arsenal spending passes £50m
Arturo Vidal to Manchester United: Louis van Gaal resurrects £35m move for midfielder
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...
Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)
£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...
£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: 2nd line support - Derbyshire - 6 months...