RONNIE O’Sullivan won his two opening-day matches at the BetVictor Welsh Open to reach the last 32 – but the victories came with some strong criticism of the venue.
The tournament is back in Cardiff at the Motorpoint Arena this year in a bid to better house 128 players, after 10 years at the Newport Centre.
O’Sullivan, the defending champion after his 147 final heroics 12 months ago, was a big fan of the event’s former home.
And there are aspects of this year’s set-up, indeed all early rounds for 128 players at venues with multiple tables and more open spectator viewing, that particularly irk the five-time world champion.
Throw in the usual scramble for practice table time with so many professionals in the building and you had a recipe for a headline-grabbing outburst in a BBC interview after his 4-1 win over Vinnie Calabrese.
For a while against Rory McLeod in the evening second-round match it looked as if O’Sullivan’s unhappiness might get the better of him but from 2-0 down he took a pivotal third frame before running out a 4-2 victor.
O’Sullivan, who now plays Matthew Stevens on Wednesday for a place in the last 16, said: “You wouldn’t look forward to playing in these conditions with the 128 players, the venues can’t really handle it and it is like a car boot sale.
“You just have to scrummage your way through if you can somehow the first two or three rounds and put up with the sub-standard conditions.
“I don’t like the new venue here at Cardiff, I thought the old one at Newport was one of the best venues I ever played at so I was gutted to see it go.
“I had played here and knew what sort of venue it was, it is like an aircraft hangar, the atmosphere is not as great and the acoustics not as good.
“It is nowhere near as good as Newport but you need venues big enough to take these 128 players.
“Players are using half a practice table each, one guy playing with the yellow as a cue ball. If you told people top professional sports people were doing that , they’d say ‘You’re having a laugh’.
“You can’t take it too seriously out there, there is so much going on it is really difficult to concentrate on your shots.
“It is like playing in a shopping mall, there are people just walking around all over the place, getting up, it is hard to get your head around.
“Distractions are one thing, you can deal with that, but when people are walking around as and when they feel, the etiquette of snooker is that when a player is on the shot you don’t.
“It is hard to focus on your game. But what it means is don’t take it seriously because if you do it would really annoy you, so smash a few balls around.”
O'Sullivan's comments did also slightly overshadow a great win for home hope Jamie Jones over the in-form Shaun Murphy. Jones has struggled in recent seasons to build on a superb run to the quarters at the Crucible in 2012 but last night's 4-3 victory will be a big morale-booster.
Photograph by Monique Limbos