Ronnie O’Sullivan set for spirited matchup with World Championship rival Hossein Vafaei

Hossein Vafaei is ready to find out if he will have to pay for his outspoken comments about seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan when the pair begin their second round match at the World Snooker Championship on Friday.

Vafaei launched into verbal criticism of his former friend following his first round win over Ding Junhui last weekend, accusing the 47-year-old of “disrespect” following an incident in qualifying for the 2021 German Masters. , adding: “He’s such a nice guy when he’s asleep.”

Opinions are divided on whether the Iranian, ranked 23rd in the world, made a wise choice in pushing O’Sullivan ahead of their three-day best-of-25 clash which is scheduled to conclude on Sunday morning.

Former world champion Mark Williams said he feared for Vafaei after his comments, asking, “Why would you want to wake the beast?” but another title rival, Mark Allen, was willing to give the 28-year-old the benefit of the doubt.

“I feel like too many players avoid saying things about Ronnie,” Allen said. “He has said a lot about other players on tour over the years, so why not?

“Only time will tell if what Hossein said was a good or a bad idea. He could lose now and everyone will say it’s because he said what he said. But he also could have said nothing and still lost!”

O’Sullivan has been irritating Crucible opponents for more than a quarter of a century, beginning on his fourth visit at age 20 in 1996, when he defeated Canadian Alain Robidoux 10-3 in the first round.

Robidoux, a former semi-finalist, refused to shake O’Sullivan’s hand, calling him “disrespectful” for playing some of his shots left-handed, prompting O’Sullivan to reply: “It was rubbish, it shouldn’t.” . He has been at the same table as me.

Six years later, O’Sullivan fanned the fire ahead of his semi-final against Stephen Hendry, maintaining that “there’s not much respect there”, threatening to send Hendry “back to his sad little life in Scotland”. ”

O’Sullivan, who said his respect for his former hero had soured due to an incident involving the ‘miss’ rule two years earlier, later said he was sorry for the comments and that Hendry’s former friend, the boxer, had cajoled Naseem Hamed.

In 2018, O’Sullivan shouldered opponent Ali Carter in the 19th frame of their tense second-round match, telling his opponent, “That’s for being Mr. Angry.”

Carter, who sarcastically thanked O’Sullivan after the incident, ultimately won the match, saying afterward: “I just thought, I’m not being bullied by Ronnie like a lot of others. I’ve been through harder things in my life.”

Four-time champion Mark Selby was the latest to be angered by O’Sullivan’s antics as they headed to the dramatic conclusion to their 2020 semi-final, which O’Sullivan topped 17-16 after winning the last three frames.

O’Sullivan had played some deliberately reckless escapes from snookers when trailing 16–14, prompting a disappointed Selby to insist: “I thought it was a little disrespectful to me and the game.”

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