Wednesday 23 August 2017

Ronnie O'Sullivan given rocky ride by former taxi driver Gary Wilson

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O'Sullivan

John Skilbeck

Ronnie O'Sullivan was given a rocky ride by former taxi driver Gary Wilson as the Rocket began his bid for a sixth Betfred World Championship title.

Wallsend cueman Wilson is making his Crucible debut after coming through the qualifying rounds in dazzling style, firing eight centuries over three matches including a 147 maximum break.

And while O'Sullivan looked en route for the second round when he surged 5-1 ahead, Wilson plotted his way back into the contest to trail only 5-4 overnight.

Until now, Wilson has been as well known for his flamboyant mohawk hairstyles as for his snooker, although he did reached the China Open final two years ago.

The hair is all shaved off in Sheffield, with Wilson meaning business, and he was excited to draw O'Sullivan rather than overawed.

Wilson turned to driving taxis when the early years of his chosen career proved a struggle, but better recent fortunes have seen him able to concentrate on snooker.

Early breaks of 57, 58, 63, a second 58 and 122 suggested O'Sullivan was playing well in building his four-frame cushion, but he was pegged back by a man on a mission.

O'Sullivan benefited from a huge slice of luck in the sixth frame, when 39 behind with only 35 points left on the table. Wilson flicked the knuckle of the middle pocket from a safety shot and the white deflected tight along the cushion and into the yellow pocket. O'Sullivan cleared up to level the scores and sank the re-spotted black to open a 5-1 lead.

But what could have been a shattering blow instead appeared to galvanise Wilson, who replied with 64 in taking the next frame and then 63 to cut O'Sullivan's lead further.

A 63 from O'Sullivan put the 41-year-old seemingly in charge of the next, but he missed a red he would have expected to sink and back came Wilson, potting a tricky black to snatch the frame and fuel his confidence before the best-of-19-frame contest concludes on Sunday afternoon.

O'Sullivan had earlier directed a grumble at the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.

The five-time world champion said he was still waiting to receive his trophy for winning the Masters in January, aiming a series of tweets, the first of which was addressed to WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson.

He wrote: "Where's my trophy you promised me for winning the masters? You promised me I'd get one. It's been 4 months now."

Prompted by another Twitter user, O'Sullivan added: "It's defo not a wind up.. they promised me I'd get a trophy and nothing yet. There always seems to be a good excuse on why it's not come yet."

Another Crucible newcomer, Leeds cueman David Grace, had a similar result to Wilson by coming back from being almost cut adrift to salvage the session against Kyren Wilson

In Grace's case, he was 5-2 behind and grappled his way back to 5-4 behind.

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