Ronnie O'Sullivan
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Ronnie O’Sullivan – ‘I feel like I just want to tell them to go away’

Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the semi-finals of the UK Championship with a hard-fought 6-5 victory over Zhou Yuelong on Friday in York.

The Rocket raced into a 3-0 lead but lost momentum and form, with Zhou taking five out of the next six frames to move to within the brink of a famous glory.

But O’Sullivan dug deep at the end, compiling tidy breaks of 77 and 122 to clinch a second triumph this week in a decider.

The 47 year-old, who won the Shanghai Masters in September, is now two wins away from a record-extending eighth UK Championship title.

O’Sullivan’s first occurred 30 years ago when he burst onto the scene by capturing his maiden ranking crown as a teenager, beating Stephen Hendry in the final.

The Englishman longs for those days when he was a relatively unknown talent and didn’t have to deal with the constant expectations from fans and media.

“When I look back at the first one, I think that it was so nice back then that no one knew me,” Ronnie O’Sullivan told the World Snooker Tour.

“I was just walking through my hotel, through the car park at the Preston Guild Hall. No one stopped me or spoke to me.”

“I could go and do my snooker, but obviously once I’ve won the tournament and gone home, your life changes a bit.

“I do remember just having the peace and quiet of just going and being anonymous.

“Loving the game and not having the pressure of people wanting a piece of you – that’s what I find hard now, people wanting a piece of me.

“I find it difficult when people see me and tell me I’m going to win this or win that. I feel like I just want to tell them to go away.

“I hate it. The more people tell me you can do this, the more I think I’m going to lose, because you get on my nerves.

“I just don’t like it. I just can’t handle it. I’d like to just turn up and play.

“I’ve won seven Masters, seven UKs, seven Worlds. ‘He’s got to win an eighth, he’s got to win a ninth.’ I can’t just have a bit of peace and quiet and enjoy it.

“What will be will be. I don’t find it that important really. I find it difficult, the pressure of what people expect from me. I don’t like it.

“That’s why I try to stay away from people to be honest, but it’s hard when you’re in a hotel. They just find you, you know.

“I just wish people wouldn’t say that to me. Just say hello and how are you doing? ‘How’s Ronnie? How’s Ronnie today?’ That’d be nice.”

In Saturday’s UK Championship semi-finals, O’Sullivan will face Hossein Vafaei in a repeat of their Crucible showdown from earlier this year.

The Iranian compiled a hat-trick of century breaks for the second match in a row, on this occasion his impressive display helping him to beat the in-form Zhang Anda 6-4.

The other last-four clash will see player-of-the-season Judd Trump face three-time UK champion Ding Junhui.

The latter prevailed from a dramatic affair with Mark Williams that went the distance, while Trump prolonged his recent winning habit by overcoming Mark Selby.

Both semi-finals take place on Saturday at the Barbican Centre.

2023 UK Championship draw and results

Last 32 (bo11)

Mark Allen (1) 5-6 Ding Junhui
Tom Ford (16) 6-5 Noppon Saengkham
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Fan Zhengyi
Kyren Wilson (8) 5-6 Jamie Clarke

Mark Selby (5) 6-0 Mark Joyce
Barry Hawkins (12) 6-4 Ben Woollaston
Jack Lisowski (13) 4-6 Jamie Jones
Judd Trump (4) 6-1 Pang Junxu

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Anthony McGill
Robert Milkins (14) 6-5 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
John Higgins (11) 6-3 Joe O’Connor
Neil Robertson (6) 2-6 Zhou Yuelong

Shaun Murphy (7) 4-6 Hossein Vafaei
Ali Carter (10) 3-6 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-5 Elliot Slessor
Luca Brecel (2) 6-4 Yuan Sijun

Last 16 (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-3 Tom Ford (16)
Mark Williams (9) 6-4 Jamie Clarke
Mark Selby (5) 6-5 Barry Hawkins (12)
Jamie Jones 0-6 Judd Trump (4)

Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Robert Milkins (14)
John Higgins (11) 3-6 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-1 Matthew Selt
Zhang Anda (15) 6-4 Luca Brecel (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-5 Mark Williams (9)
Mark Selby (5) 3-6 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-5 Zhou Yuelong
Hossein Vafaei 6-4 Zhang Anda (15)

Semi-Finals (bo11)

Ding Junhui 6-4 Judd Trump (4)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) 6-2 Hossein Vafaei

Final (bo19)

Ding Junhui 7-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (3)

Featured photo credit: WST

One Comment

  1. Daniel White

    Ronnie O’Sullivan has missed many tournaments this season, he sometimes looks thoroughly distracted during his matches and even looks miserable in his body language and demeanor sometimes. These comments seem to fit into that. Several snooker players currently, or recently, look uncomfortable to me.

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