Ronnie O’Sullivan shows ‘unbelievable’ sportsmanship in incident at World Snooker Championship

O’Sullivan lost the frame after a debate with referee Desislava Bozhilova over a re-spotted black during his quarter-final match with Stuart Bingham

Lawrence Ostlere,Kieran Jackson
Wednesday 01 May 2024 22:21 BST
Related video: Ronnie O'Sullivan signs young fan's shirt

Ronnie O’Sullivan displayed “unbelievable” sportsmanship during an incident in his quarter-final loss against Stuart Bingham at the World Snooker Championship.

O’Sullivan was leading 6-5 in the best-of-25 contest, and down 14 points in the 12th frame, when the bizarre moment occurred after he had potted the black.

Referee Desislava Bozhilova attempted to re-spot the black ball – a delicate operation with the white ball in such close proximity and the black ball rocking off its spot slightly.

Ronnie O’Sullivan keeps a close eye as Desislava Bozhilova re-spots the black
Ronnie O’Sullivan keeps a close eye as Desislava Bozhilova re-spots the black (Action Images via Reuters)

Bozhilova felt the black was on its spot but O’Sullivan was unconvinced and appeared unhappy to accept the benefit of being able to pot the next red into the left corner pocket as a result of the black’s position.

Despite Bingham’s indifference, O’Sullivan refused to pot the red and instead opted to play a safety shot. O’Sullivan went on to lose the frame, and fellow world champion Neil Robertson hailed the extraordinary moment.

“He played safe even though he could pot the red. It’s unbelievable,” Robertson said, analysing the match for BBC Sport.

“This is probably one of the greatest bits of sportsmanship I have ever seen in any sport. That’s incredible. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

However, O’Sullivan provided a different take on the incident, telling Eurosport: “To be honest with you, some of the refs, I think they’ve got it in for me, so I just wanted to prove to her that she got it wrong.

O’Sullivan speaks to referee Desislava Bozhilov at the Crucible
O’Sullivan speaks to referee Desislava Bozhilov at the Crucible (Action Images via Reuters)

“I didn’t feel good about potting the ball after that, but I just wanted to make the point. The point was made. I’m not that hungry to win it in that way, so once the principle’s been made I can sleep at night.”

Bozhilova, 31, has refereed on the professional tour for 12 years, and officiated in the respective Masters and UK Championship finals in 2022.

The WST refuted O’Sullivan’s allegations and insisted Bozhilova acted correctly throughout the incident.

The match’s second session concluded at eight frames each before Bingham went on to claim a shock 13-10 victory and progress to the final four.

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