Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui may have been in different quarter-finals – but the fates brought their stories together on Friday afternoon.
It was almost inevitable after O’Sullivan’s snubbing of a 147 maximum break chance on Monday, and all the resulting publicity, that someone else would make one at the BetVictor Welsh Open.
The script was too perfect, the narrative possibilities just too endless for that not to happen. In the end it was Ding making the sixth of his career, albeit in a losing cause against Neil Robertson.
O’Sullivan, who made surprisingly quick work of despatching world No1 Mark Selby 5-1, is a long-time admirer of Ding, one of few players he bothers to watch on TV (or at least, when not being paid as a pundit to do so).
But although the comments were made with a smile and a dose of good humour, the three-time Welsh Open winner appeared mildly irked by Ding’s undermining of his public stance and protest.
O’Sullivan said: “Ding has really let the lads down there, I’m very disappointed with him – and I’ll have to have a few words over his 147! I said I would shake the hand of anyone who did – but I lied.
“I have done brilliant for this tournament, probably most people didn’t know it was on before this week. It would cost the sport a few quid to buy the headlines and I have played decent snooker.
“This week has been hard work, the pressure of playing top players every day – I feel like I have been fighting Mike Tyson every day.”
Ding, ironically snooker’s biggest earner from huge sponsorship deals in China, took something of a pot shot back at O’Sullivan.
He said: “I heard someone offered Ronnie £61,000 if he made one – but it is not about the money for me. It is about history, records and making 147 breaks.”
The obvious additional point to make here was that if O’Sullivan was attempting, however good-naturedly, to claim that Ding was in some way ‘strike-breaking’, there was a clear problem.
And this was that the solidarity O’Sullivan was hinting at was in fact restricted to a group of one – him. No other player would have passed up the chance of a £12,000 payout on a maximum as he did on Monday.
If Ding was doing the equivalent of crossing a picket line, never a good idea in south Wales at the best of times, then it was past O’Sullivan all on his own at the gates.
O’Sullivan ruthlessly took advantage of a Selby blunder in frame three with the match level at 1-1, the Leicester Jester miscounting when clearing up and forgetting he still needed the final black.
Selby, 32, said: “The third frame was a big turning point, I just miscounted on the clearance thinking I only needed the pink whatever colours I was taking.
“And even after that I could have moved the black from the brown if I had realised. It is one of those things, I haven’t done that many times.
“I don’t think I need to go back to school for maths lessons, but in the heat of the moment I wasn’t expecting the chance and forgot myself.
“But he played really well and has been all week. I have obviously done something to upset him, he has played at the same level against me as he did at last month’s Masters.”
O'Sullivan will play Joe Perry in Saturday's semi-final after he beat last year's runner-up Ben Woollaston 5-1.
Robertson, who now plays Mark Allen, could not have been less shaken by Ding’s 147 in frame six that closed the gap to 4-2 – winning the match in the next frame.
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos