O’Sul­li­van be­wil­dered by fake ap­plause dur­ing blis­ter­ing start

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Mark Stan­i­forth

Ron­nie O’Sul­li­van re­quired just an hour and 22 min­utes to es­tab­lish an 8-1 overnight lead against Thai­land’s Thep­chaiya Un-Nooh as their first-round match turned into an ex­hi­bi­tion of speed snooker.

In the meet­ing of the two fastest play­ers on the cir­cuit O’Sul­li­van be­gan his World Cham­pi­onship campaign with seven breaks over 50, in­clud­ing two cen­turies, and recorded an av­er­age shot time for the ses­sion of just 13.41 sec­onds.

It was the kind of dis­play that would or­di­nar­ily have brought a packed crowd to its feet. In­stead bursts of canned crowd noise were played to mark cen­turies and frame wins, ini­tially ap­pear­ing to be­wil­der the five-time world cham­pion. But oth­er­wise O’Sul­li­van showed noth­ing but steely re­solve against an op­po­nent who was guilty of gift­ing him gilt-edged chances.

Breaks of 101 and 85 in the first two frames set the tone for a tie that had looked set to test O’Sul­li­van, given Thep­chaiya’s near-miss against even­tual cham­pion Judd Trump in the first round last year. Thep­chaiya’s care­less­ness con­tin­ued in the next as O’Sul­li­van stepped in to clear to pink for a break of 115, a foul yield­ing six of the seven points the Thai had man­aged to ac­cu­mu­late.

O’Sul­li­van con­tin­ued with breaks of 86 and 76 to ex­tend his lead to 6-0, be­fore the Thai avoided the in­dig­nity of a third Cru­cible white­wash by tak­ing the next with a fine break of 69.

For­mer cham­pi­ons Neil Robert­son and John Hig­gins, mean­while, ex­pressed their sup­port for the fake-crowd ex­per­i­ment af­ter reach­ing the se­cond round with 10-5 wins over Liang Wenbo and Matthew Stevens re­spec­tively.

Robert­son said: “It’s a re­ally good ad­di­tion. As long as they don’t add some­body open­ing a packet of crisps and the ran­dom mo­bile phones go­ing off then it’s ac­tu­ally re­ally nice.”

Four-time win­ner Hig­gins, who con­verted a 6-3 overnight lead, said it was an im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous si­lence which he de­scribed as

“like go­ing to Mass.” Hig­gins added: “It was a lot bet­ter hav­ing some at­mos­phere in there. I still feel the pres­sure out there – it’s still the Cru­cible you’re play­ing in. It’s still a venue with seats and you do feel the nerves just from be­ing here.”

Kurt Maflin, the English-Nor­we­gian qual­i­fier, was warned for mak­ing an ob­scene ges­ture to­wards the ta­ble dur­ing his match against David Gil­bert, the world No 12. Maflin made the ges­ture af­ter his bid for a max­i­mum break ended when he ran out of po­si­tion on the penul­ti­mate red.

Ref­eree Ta­tiana Wool­las­ton took Maflin aside be­fore the start of the next frame and told him: “I have to warn you – the next one, you lose the frame.”

Fast worker: Ron­nie O’Sul­li­van took just 82 min­utes to es­tab­lish an 8-1 ad­van­tage

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