Ronnie O’Sullivan equaled his most emphatic victory in a best-of-25 frame contest by beating Hossein Vafaei 13-2, securing a place in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Championship for the 21st time. The match was billed as a clash of rivals, but it turned out to be a completely one-sided contest, followed by a post-match embrace and mutual burying of hatchets.
Vafaei may regret raising the stakes before coming up against snooker’s greatest ever player, as the Iranian cracked under pressure while his opponent was imperious. O’Sullivan strolled serenely past a series of landmarks during the contest, scoring his 200th Crucible century, his 1,200th career century, and his next match will be his 100th at the Crucible. The scoreline matched his 13-2 defeat of Robert Milkins back in 2002.
The defending champion, 47-year-old O’Sullivan, will have a welcome rest tomorrow morning, having finished the match a session early. He can look ahead to an intriguing meeting with Luca Brecel on Tuesday and Wednesday, with O’Sullivan just three wins away from becoming the first player to win eight world titles.
Leading 6-2 overnight, O’Sullivan won the first frame of the day with breaks of 48 and 34. Vafaei should have pulled one back but missed frame-ball green on 59 in the next, and O’Sullivan cleared with 58 to pinch it by a point. A run of 68 stretched his advantage to 9-2.
In frame 12, Vafaei led 47-0 when he overcut a risky red to a top corner, and again his opponent punished him with an 82 clearance. His chances fading fast, Vafaei made another error early in the 13th as an attempted pink to a center pocket hit the far jaw, and O’Sullivan’s 64 made it 11-2. Just 18 minutes later, the match was over as world number one O’Sullivan finished with a brace of centuries, 107 and 116.
In a post-match interview, O’Sullivan recalled the 2002 World Championship when he stated that he was going to send Stephen Hendry “back to his sad little life” before their semi-final meeting, and ended up losing 17-13. He regretted making those comments and did not want to disrespect his hero. O’Sullivan said that there were no hard feelings from him, and that he loves Vafaei, who is a great guy and a brilliant player. He also praised Vafaei’s resilience, given his visa issues, and said that he has the potential to be a top 16 player and is still young.
On the other hand, Vafaei was gracious in defeat and praised O’Sullivan’s fantastic performance, stating that he lost to the greatest ever. He added that he did not regret what he said before the match, as it was nice for the people and made snooker more interesting. Vafaei hopes that O’Sullivan wins the tournament because he is too good.
Overall, it was an impressive performance by O’Sullivan, who showcased his snooker skills and demonstrated why he is considered one of the best players in the world.