Twice in recent matches at the Welsh Open Snooker tournament Ronnie O’Sullivan has chosen to end a frame in his favour by striking at a red before the referee had had a chance to spot the colour previously potted and whilst leading the frame such that there was no possibility of his opponent getting back into it. This happened both times with Ronnie at the end of breaks totalling in the 90s and begs the question of why would he do such a thing and what, if any, are or should be, the ramifications.
To possibly address the question of why, it is a fact that this magical player has up to now in his professional career amassed a total of 994 century breaks with only 6 more needed to become the first to complete one thousand. The chance to take this total to 998 has literally been thrown away and the only conclusion that comes to mind is that he wants to make the thousandth break in the upcoming World Championships and in its iconic theatre at the Crucible, perhaps even with thoughts of achieving it in the Final. What a headline that would make!
Now nobody can say for certain that that is what is in his mind except for Ronnie himself and if it is achieved it would certainly be noteworthy, but if it should fail then he is left with egg on his face and he must accept the possibility of derision being thrown at him as it has been in the past for various other misadventures. Maybe he just doesn’t care!
Meanwhile the question remains of whether or not he has brought the game into disrepute by his actions and whether or not it could be deemed ‘ungentlemanly behaviour’.
It has been suggested by some commentators that the referees in charge of these matches were slow in their actions of re-spotting the balls (Pink on both occasions) and whilst it is incumbent on the referee to keep pace with the players in their matches and taking into account the fact that Ronnie is an exceptionally quick player it is also a fact that this accusation cannot in any way be directed at either of the referees taking charge of those matches and that the commentators making such unfounded accusations need to take a hard look at themselves and the way they present the game to the public.
With the referees then exonerated, certainly in my mind, the next question to address is the effect, if any, on Ronnie’s opponents in those matches.
The first of these incidents happened in the first round against Sanderson Lam in a match that Ronnie won 4 – 2. The frame in question was the fourth and although Ronnie did win the next two frames for the victory, the 6th frame was won 63 – 53 and the 5th was a won with another century from Ronnie.
The second was against Yuan Sijun and also happened in the fourth frame which then made the frame score 3 – 1 in favour of Ronnie. Yuan then won the next frame 64 – 0 before Ronnie completed the victory in the sixth frame.
I think it is safe to say that Ronnie would have been expected to win both those matches and that the performances of his two opponents did not let either of them down and it would also be very hard to conclude that the actions of Ronnie in any way caused a miss-step by either of them.
In conclusion it is my opinion that nothing untoward has happened because of these actions and the only ones possibly hurt by them are the watching public denied the spectacle of century breaks by the game’s most exciting player. For those members of the general public who watch Snooker the overriding desire is for entertainment and I’m sure they would prefer Ronnie and his antics over those slow and boring players, that more than is good for the popularity of the game sometimes come to dominate and who I will on this occasion forbear to name.
Ronnie in a later interview stated that he had promised to make this special break in the then upcoming Shanghai Masters, but the 1000th century was eventually made in the Coral Player's Championship final and in the final and match winning frame of his 10 - 4 victory over runner up Neil Robertson with a 134.