01 May 2024

Ronnie O’Sullivan claims some refs have it in for him during his Crucible defeat

01 May 2024

Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed some referees “have it in for me” as he crashed out of the World Snooker Championship in a 13-10 quarter-final defeat to Stuart Bingham.

Bingham, the 2015 champion, reeled off the last three frames to secure a famous win but it was overshadowed by a bizarre incident in the 12th frame involving O’Sullivan and referee Desislava Bozhilova.

O’Sullivan was initially praised for an act of sportsmanship after seeming to play safe rather than opting to pot a red close to the black because he believed the black had not been spotted correctly.

O’Sullivan repeatedly asked referee Desislava Bozhilova to replace the ball because he believed it was rolling fractionally off its spot, incorrectly giving him an opportunity to pot it.

The world number one, who was 14 points behind and on a break of 20, eventually lost the frame but was hailed for his gesture, with former world champion Neil Robertson, commentating on the BBC, calling it “the greatest bit of sportsmanship I’ve ever seen”.

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.

“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.”

O’Sullivan subsequently told Bozhilova to “chill” after an incident in which she asked him to resume playing while he waited for some spectators to retake their seats in the arena.

Asked about the incidents afterwards, O’Sullivan changed his tune, insisting: “I won’t be commenting on players or referees, it’s not worth it.

“I’ll keep silent on that sort of stuff. I won’t comment on players and I won’t comment on referees. I just leave it as it is. My life’s too good and I don’t need the hassle.”

O’Sullivan and Bingham had started their concluding session tied together at 8-8, and shared the first two frames of the evening in their best-of-25 frame encounter.

O’Sullivan nudged in front with a break of 136 in the first frame of the evening but grew increasingly erratic, and punched the table in frustration after missing a red in the 21st frame, which also involved the incident with the crowd.

Bingham produced a nerveless break of 104 to nudge one frame from victory, then held on in the next despite missing a pink to the middle that had given O’Sullivan a glimmer of hope.

O’Sullivan, who missed the chance to become the first eight-time world champion of the modern era, shrugged off the nature of his defeat and insisted he had only played in the tournament at the behest of a new sponsor.

“I quite enjoyed it,” said O’Sullivan. “I like the fight. A lot of the time I haven’t had the fight. It’s just about controlling that sort of temper. I used to get angry and it would last for 20 minutes but now I can pretty much delete it and it doesn’t affect my performance.

“Rule number is just to enjoy what you do. I wasn’t going to playing in this one until a new sponsor came along, and they twisted my arm.”

Bingham, who entered the tournament in real danger of dropping out of the world’s top 32, relished his chance to join the illustrious list of multiple world champions after sealing an unlikely last-four clash with fellow qualifier Jak Jones.

“Everyone will be looking at the draw thinking, ‘this is my chance to be world champion’,” said Bingham.

“I can’t take anything for granted and though I’m the only one (left) to have got my hands on that trophy, I don’t know if it’ll count for much.

“It would mean everything. There aren’t many people who have won it twice and it would maybe mean more second time around, because the first time it was all new, but I’ve got the chance to actually do it again.

“The last two seasons have not been great. I was out of the top 32 and I played with no expectations. I’ve gone toe to toe with the best player ever and I’ve come out on top.”

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