Snooker legend Ray Reardon has a new nickname for 'Rocket' Ronnie O'Sullivan - the first player to reach the Embassy World Championship semi-finals.
"The way Ronnie plays is just magical," enthused six-times world title holder Reardon after watching O'Sullivan overwhelm Anthony Hamilton 13-3 in Sheffield last night.
"So, I'm going to call him the Magician. I've told him that but sometimes he just gets lost in his own spell.
"What a talent," added Reardon, who won his last world crown when O'Sullivan was just three-years old.
"Why he has not won more tournaments I just don't know?. It's amazing to watch him play right and left-handed.
"He is not belittling his opponent and I think he should do it more often.
"We are getting along just fine," added the 71-year-old Torquay-based veteran.
"He is here to win the title and I'm here to see he does it. Otherwise there is no point in being here.
"You could say I'm a father figure if you like. I've spoken to him about his behaviour and I'm happy.
"He hasn't done it to anyone else but himself. However, I can't condone what he has done.
"In fact, I deplore it," added Reardon, who was a policeman as well as a miner before becoming a snooker professional. "And if there is any repeat I'm off."
O'Sullivan certainly showed impeccable table manners against Hamilton; no early concessions, no swearing under his breath and no crude hand signals.
He let his snooker do the talking and left Hamilton practically speechless. The 'Magician' increased his tournament tally of centuries to 10 with four against the 'Sheriff of Pottingham.'
And unless Ian McCulloch produces a major upset this evening, O'Sullivan will face seven-times champion Stephen Hendry for a place in the best-of-35-frames final.
"It's nice to have someone like Ray telling me I'm doing things right," said O'Sullivan, who broke Hamilton's resistance by taking a 7-1 lead after the first session.
"We get on well. He is a top man and that's important if you are to have a working relationship.
"Two or three times he has told me there are other ways, and I'm listening to him."
Clive Everton at the Crucible
Monday April 26, 2004
Ronnie O'Sullivan's offensive gestures, language and breaches of the game's accepted etiquette in his first two matches in the Embassy World Championship passed without comment from the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. But his unrepentant remarks in a ghosted newspaper column yesterday appear to have been one provocation too many.
"I'll keep swearing and gesturing at the pockets and there is nothing that snooker's governing body is going to do to stop me because that is me," said O'Sullivan
However Sir Rodney Walker, the WPBSA's new chairman and not the sort to tolerate authority being so contemptuously flouted, begged to differ. "There is a disciplinary procedure and we will be looking at this," he said.
Describing O'Sullivan as "an extremely talented young man who has made a lot of money from snooker", Sir Rodney emphasised the former world champion's responsibility to set a good example to younger players. He acknowledged that the displayed behaviour had been "unhelpful to the image of the game", and that "the Embassy World Championship is our showpiece event and [the players] need to behave properly. The vast majority of their income derives from tournament money generated by broadcasters and sponsors."
O'Sullivan's opponent in tomorrow's quarter-final will be Anthony Hamilton, who made up in grit what he lacked in fluency in grinding out a 13-11 win over Joe Swail.
Asked whether he had been irked not to be mentioned as a world championship contender, Hamilton quipped: "And rightfully so. I can't pot a ball. I can't believe I've won. I could have been 7-1 down in the first session and could have lost the second 6-2, so to be 8-8 was incredible. I've got to get on the practice table. My action's gone west."
The quarter-final line-up, to be completed today, will feature neither defending champion, Mark Williams, nor the Masters champion, Paul Hunter.
Williams, 10-6 down overnight, transformed his position into an 11-10 lead over the world No16, Joe Perry, who nevertheless emerged 13-11 winner. Hunter, who led Matthew Stevens, the UK champion, 10-6 and 12-10, lost by the odd frame here for the third consecutive year to leave Stevens to play Perry in the quarters.
Hunter was, at 12-10, within one pot of beating Stevens when his match-ball pink dipped just below the edge of the middle pocket, only to withdraw from it like a toe dipped into excessively hot water. Stevens ultimately got home on the final pink after a desperately tense 40-minute deciding frame.
John Higgins, the 1998 champion, seemed in a mental fog as his countless blunders assisted Graeme Dott to a 5-1 lead yesterday, though he did manage to limit his overnight arrears to 5-3. Ian McCulloch resumes this morning against Alan McManus with a 7-1 lead.
Ronnie O'Sullivan opened a 6-3 lead over Crucible debutant Stephen Maguire after a quick-fire entertaining opening session.
There were a couple of misses from both players as they got themselves settled in the opening frame.
But Maguire then quickly found his range, contributing a useful 42, and then dishing up with 60, which gave him the first frame.
The young Scot pumped in a long red at the start of frame two and made 34 from it, but a miss let O'Sullivan back to the table and he whistled in 67 in characteristic style to let Maguire know what he was up against.
Frame three went the way of Maguire, after O'Sullivan lost position on 46. Given another chance O'Sullivan made just one before missing a pink, and although he fluked a snooker off the leave, Maguire slotted a long red after a safety exchange and made a 30 clearance to the black to regain the lead.
Maguire could count himself unlucky in the next. Embarked on a break of 9, a kick threw his intended pot red off line and O'Sullivan pounced with 69 to make it 2-2.
There was no mistake at all from Maguire in the next. He thumped in a long red from a poor O'Sullivan safety shot and smacked in 121.
But it all went wrong in frame six. Maguire made 61 and seemed to be cruising, when he missed a red and O'Sullivan chipped away at the lead, making 30 and 40 to level again.
The 2001 Champion pounced on a miss from Maguire in frame seven, to the tune of 66 to take the lead for the first time. And that inspired him to compile a 109 clearance in the next, after Maguire attempted a rather reckless plant, when right in the balls.
The last of the afternoon was the scrappiest of the day, but efforts of 31 and 38 were enough for a 6-3 overnight lead for O'Sullivan.
Ronnie O'Sullivan duly wrapped up a high quality match against Crucible rookie Stephen Maguire 10-6. But the score line was flattering as Maguire acquitted himself extremely well on his debut, rattling in two centuries, including a run of 112 in the opening frame of the morning.
But most of the post match chat surrounded a gesture O'Sullivan made after a red eluded the centre pocket. O'Sullivan, obviously thought the table had played a trick and gestured accordingly.
The gesture was spotted by photographers and television but O'Sullivan brushed aside the incident saying "It just shows how passionate I am about the game."
It seems unlikely any disciplinary action will follow, although the authorities may not be so repentant about O'Sullivan's follow up remarks. "I'm always disappointed when I miss shots like that. Let the authorities do what they want to do. If they want to fine me that's fine, I have got plenty of money."
Maguire, meanwhile, enjoyed his Crucible debut and was upbeat despite defeat.
"I loved the experience. I couldn‘t see the balls in the first frame because I was shaking like a leaf but I played well in the first session and I was disappointed to go 6-3 behind.
"Hopefully I‘ll be here again next year. It‘s a great arena, everyone tells you about it but you have to play here to realise what it‘s like. The crowd is so close to you.
"I‘ll be back next season to try to make the top 16. I think I could win this tournament in a couple of years."
It didn't take long for Maguire's regular practice partner Stephen Hendry, to wrap up a 10-2 victory over Stuart Pettman. Resuming a 8-1 up, Hendry thundered in breaks of 117 and 93.
Left handed, right-handed, one fingered, it's all the same to Ronnie O'Sullivan, but he was nearly upstaged by Andy Hicks in the opening session of their second round match.
Despite O'Sullivan opening up with a superb 123 break, full of breathtaking shots, Hicks gained a 2-1 lead, and O'Sullivan levelled at the interval.
The frantic pace kept up on the resumption. But it was Hicks in the driving seat, taking the fifth and running in an excellent 116 to take a 4-2 lead. He lost the next on the colours despite a 51 break and then sat out a virtuoso 101 break from O'Sullivan, made predominantly left-handed.
And the match wasn't without incident either. As first O'Sullivan conceded a frame while Hicks was still at the table. But Hicks, battle-hardened after his bruising encounter with Quinten Hann, wasn't standing any nonsense and did precisely the same to O'Sullivan in the next frame. So, honours even all round.
Big mates Matthew Stevens and Paul Hunter finished four frames apiece after the first session of their second round match, while on the adjoining table, Andy Hicks was level with Ronnie O'Sullivan at 8-8 after another high quality and, at times, controversial session of play.
Stevens opened in style against Hunter with a run of 109 and added 65 in the third, but lost it.
Hunter made 70 in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead.
89 from Stevens helped him turn that into a 4-3 lead, but Hunter responded to take the last of the morning.
It was another eventful session between O'Sullivan and Hicks.
O'Sullivan lost the opener to a break of 57 from Hicks, who regained the lead for the third time in the match. Back came O'Sullivan with a quite sublime break of 127.
Again Hicks took the lead and this time O'Sullivan rattled in 125 to level.
And O'Sullivan took a 7-6 lead with a run of 93.
But all was not well with O'Sullivan, despite seemingly playing extremely well.
Hicks smacked in 62 and 64 to level and took the next as O'Sullivan became increasingly frustrated with himself, or something, at one point making another hand 'gesture' after the balls didn't do his bidding.
But despite thumping his fist onto the table in frustration, O'Sullivan kept his cool enough to snatch the final frame of the morning, to set up a tantalising final session on Friday evening.
Ronnie O'Sullivan became the first man into the quarter finals after a memorable 13-11 win over Devon's Andy Hicks.
Locked at 8-8 on the resumption, Hicks moved ahead 9-8, to which O'Sullivan responded with 56 to level.
Again Hicks drew ahead with a run of 71, after O'Sullivan broke down early in the frame.
O'Sullivan's response to the danger was to thump in a break of 106, his fifth century in the match, which equalled the record for a best of twenty five frame match.
All of a sudden Hicks showed signs of frailty. A couple of missed blues cost him and O'Sullivan surged into a 12-10 lead.
But Hicks, who had played superbly throughout the match, wasn't quite finished. He got a couple of chances in the next and took them to trail only 12-11.
But he didn't get much chance in the next. An imperious run of 80 from O'Sullivan brought the thrilling match to an end.
After the match O'Sullivan had praise for his opponent as he said "I'd like to say that Andy played brilliant. It takes two to make a good match.
"I played a bit better tonight, I played the right shots. I didn't pay Andy enough respect at the start of the match which was very unprofessional of me."
But he had some scathing comments about the media coverage of his match. "I get frustrated when people get the stories wrong.
"I'm just there to be hanged. I thought the media were my mates."
O'Sullivan then revealed that he's been taking advice from the six times former World Champion Ray Reardon.
"Ray's been a great help to me this year. My dad suggested I rang him. He knows everything there is to know. He's a legend."
O'Sullivan's win has put more pressure on Mark Williams' position at the top of the rankings. Should Williams lose to Perry and O'Sullivan reach the semi finals, then he will take over the number one slot.
Hicks for his part nearly doubled his season's earnings, adding £17,600 to the £19,850 he earned for the whole of the rest of the season. And there's always Quinten Hann's offer to fight him in the ring for £50,000!
3 May, 2004, By Clive Jones
BBC Sport at The Crucible
Ronnie O'Sullivan says he thinks the world has still not seen the best of him despite his dominant performance in winning this year's World Snooker Championship.
"I believe I can get better and keep on improving, not just in snooker, but in every area of my life," he said.
"It was a good performance and in the last three matches I've been feeling pretty comfortable.
"But you have to give Graeme credit. I knew it wasn't going to be a one-sided final, no matter what people said.
"He beat John Higgins and Matthew Stevens to get to the final. They are great players and Graeme is, too."
An emotional O'Sullivan dedicated his win to his father, who is serving a jail sentence.
"This one is for him," he said after the match.
"I got quite emotional throughout the match and I thought of him watching me on the television.
"He will be sitting in his cell tonight feeling chuffed to bits."
O'Sullivan paid the greatest tribute to his new mentor Ray Reardon.
The six-times former champion and O'Sullivan have struck up a close friendship since Reardon started giving The Rocket advice over his game.
"My appetite for the game is back and you can see that from the scoreline in some of the matches.
"My thanks goes to Ray. He has had an impact. I'm more excited about working with him than winning the title."
O'Sullivan said he felt good about his prospects even before the tournament began.
"I always felt in my mind that I would come here and win it," he said.
"Of course, there were some doubts over the 17 days, but you wouldn't be human if you did not have them."
May 4: Ronnie O'Sullivan regained his world title, dispatching Graeme Dott in the most one-sided finals for 11 years.
Ronnie O'Sullivan, burning less rocket fuel than he has in recent days, required only 20 minutes of last night's final session to win his second Embassy World Championship, beating Graeme Dott 18-8. It was the most one-sided final in 11 years.
He said: "I feel ready to go again. My last three matches were pretty comfortable. I really can play better than that. But when I went 5-0 down I thought I might lose 18-0.
"There were all kinds of mind games going on. And when Graeme's coach Derek Hill [O'Sullivan's coach when he first won the title in 2001] came in the room at a quarter to three on the first day of the final it got to my head, it really did. But it's a lesson."
O'Sullivan, leading 9-7 overnight, won yesterday's opening session 7-1, which meant he had won 16 out of 19 frames and went into last night's final session 16-8 up and needing just two of the final eight frames to become only the fourth player to win more than one championship at this venue.
With a break of 92 in the first frame of the evening he moved 17-8 ahead. In the final frame he put together two breaks of 33, but with the championship only two balls away he missed a relatively easy pink. His triumph was not long delayed. When Dott broke down after scoring only 16, O'Sullivan responded with another 22. He missed a red down the rail, but Dott immediately conceded.
Asked whether he had learned much, Dott replied: "Yes, I've learned that Ronnie is phenomenal. Apart from his potting his safety play was fantastic." A tearful O'Sullivan later dedicated the win, worth L250,000, to his father, who is serving a life sentence for murder at Long Lartin prison.
"People call me the Rocket, but I've slowed down and it has made me more consistent. But even more than winning this, I'm looking forward to working with Ray [Reardon]. He's added a new dimension to my game. He's fun and encourages me to play left-handed," he added.
The balance of yesterday's contest appeared unchanged from the day before, which concluded with O'Sullivan winning the final three frames. But the snooker that illuminated the stage with his destruction of Stephen Hendry in the semi-finals was missing. This was O'Sullivan at his most controlled. When he got in he was fluent and usually decisive. Sometimes brilliant and occasionally forlorn, yesterday he looked just an ordinary great player, a genius in repose. Dott, though, looked exhausted after his efforts of the previous 17 days. He didn't play abjectly, but he was unable to raise himself to the heights of the previous day when he stunned not only O'Sullivan but the snooker world by leading 5-0.
When he did get in he looked like a furtive, frightened trespasser on O'Sullivan's small and private lawn; and the maestro soon shooed him away before he trampled all over his plants. If O'Sullivan did nothing spectacular, there were few mistakes. The reds spread like measles whenever he went into them and, just like the day before, his control of the cue ball was so exemplary he might have had it on a piece of string.
O'Sullivan won the first frame of the afternoon with comfortable breaks of 41 and 30 to move 10-7 ahead.
He looked in the mood for something a little more spectacular when he took five blacks with his reds to build up a 40-0 lead in the 18th. But just as the theatre started to hiss with whispers of a possible maximum, he missed a simple red. Another break of 45, though, saw him home 85-0.
The next frame brought Dott's solitary triumph of the afternoon, albeit a stylish one. He compiled the biggest break of the match, 106, to pull back to 11-8. But O'Sullivan re- established his four-frame advantage in the final frame before the interval with a 65 clearance.
Dott bossed the early stages of the 21st frame when he established a 43-0 advantage. But then he lost position and O'Sullivan's 85 clearance put him 13-8 ahead. Breaks of 62 in the next frame, 46 and 32 in the 23rd and 61 in the final session put him 16-8 up. Dott seemed overwhelmed not only by O'Sullivan's superior craft but by his own extraordinary adventures. In an event lasting longer than the Olympic Games, he had already played the best snooker of his life.
But, in truth, it was not a great final, especially when those of the previous two years are recalled. But at least the greatest player of them all is beginning to punch his considerable weight.
Snooker genius Ronnie O'Sullivan captured the Embassy World Championship title for the second time by wrapping up an emphatic 18-8 defeat of Graeme Dott at the Crucible tonight (Monday).
Rocket Ronnie fell 5-0 behind early in the final but then stepped up the gears and raced away to win by a comfortable margin. His fans at the packed Sheffield arena watched in delight as he lifted the glittering trophy and pocketed a cheque for Ł250,000.
Perhaps the most gifted player ever to pick up a cue, O'Sullivan had to wait nine years between turning professional and winning his first world title. But he has since fulfilled his potential by taking the sport's biggest prize twice in the space of four years.
The 28-year-old from Chigwell in Essex joins a select band of players to have won the Championship on more than one occasion at the Crucible. Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams are the only other members of this elite group. .
Leading 16-8 after the third session, O'Sullivan soon extended his lead with a quick-fire break of 92 to draw within a frame of the winning line. He showed a few signs of nerves in the next, but with Dott mentally and physically exhausted, there was no question of the result.
Runs of 29 and 33 put the Englishman in control, and after Dott had missed a short range red along the top cushion, he added 22 to seal victory.
Mum Maria and younger sister Danielle embraced the new champion, as friend 'Prince' Naseem Hamed shouted his congratulations from the theatre balcony.
Glasgow's world No 13 Dott may be disappointed to go down without much of a fight today, having led 5-0 early in the contest. But the Rangers fan will look back on the event with delight, having beaten the likes of John Higgins and Matthew Stevens on his way to the final.
His brilliant run earned him his biggest pay-cheque, Ł125,000, and guaranteed his place in the top 16 for another season. Ultimately, fatigue caught up with the Pocket Dynamo - he had played 94 frames on his way to the final, compared to O'Sullivan's 77
O'Sullivan's snooker in past years has been frequently brilliant, but he has been plagued by inconsistency and known to give in to frustration when not able to find his free-flowing 'A' game.
This season, he has found a new level of maturity, showing determination to grind out results when not at his best. That grittiness has been in evidence throughout the past fortnight at the Crucible as he has combined glorious break-building with rock solid safety and tactical play. He easily beat Anthony Hamilton 13-3 in the quarter-finals, then took Hendry apart in the semis with a 17-4 romp.
New guru Ray Reardon must take some credit for O'Sullivan's triumph, though the 'new Ronnie' has been producing results throughout the season. He won the Welsh Open in Cardiff in January and reached the final of the Masters and the British Open, and also took the inaugural LG Electronics Tour Order of Merit title.
O'Sullivan goes back to No 1 in the official rankings next season, taking the top spot from Mark Williams. He is the only player other than Williams and Reardon to regain the No 1 spot.
His career on-table earnings go over the Ł4million mark. But money is not the issue for the Rocket tonight - his name engraved once again on the famous trophy is all that matters.
Ronnie O'Sullivan has stormed into a 13-3 lead against Stephen Hendry in their Embassy World Championship semi-final at The Crucible.
O'Sullivan began the day with a 6-2 overnight lead and 'the Rocket' won the opening four frames of the second session in just 42 minutes.
Hendry managed to score a combined total of just 15 points, while O'Sullivan rattled in breaks of 81, 92, 52 and 117.
He added the next three frames 36-78, 21-63 (58), 0-79 (63) and now needs to win just four more of the remaining 18 frames to reach his second world final, and reclaim the number one spot in the rankings for 2004-05.
O'Sullivan's form makes a mockery of the fact he has yet to beat Hendry at Sheffield in three previous meetings.
The opening frame set the pattern, with Hendry missing a pink into the middle and O'Sullivan putting together an 81 break.
Frame 10 was similar with Hendry failing to convert a cut on a red into the centre pocket and O'Sullivan responding with 92.
A run of 52 was enough to settle the next and then O'Sullivan cashed in on Hendry missing a difficult black in the last frame before the interval with a superb 117.
The game went to form over the next three frames, and though Hendry took the final frame of the session, it leaves him with a seemingly impossible task for victory.
Meanwhile in the other semi, Graeme Dott remains on course for a place in his first world final. He will head into the third of four evening sessions with Matthew Stevens holding a 9-7 advantage after sharing the eight frames in the morning battle.
The Scot also had the distinction of registering the 50th century and his first of this year's championships with a 117 in frame 11.
Stevens was still well below his best and will be relieved to have such a narrow deficit to overcome.
Dott, who was on the verge of quitting the game last summer, needs to reach the final to maintain his place in the top 16 for next season.
He moved 8-5 clear at one stage and Stevens was relieved when he left the final black hanging over the pocket in frame 14 before they shared the final two frames of the session.