RONNIE O’SULLIVAN admits being ‘harassed’ by a fan in Sheffield before his first round World Championship match was a wake-up call and he needs to be more cautious in public to protect his own safety.
The defending champion breezed past Crucible debutant Mark Joyce as three successive century breaks sealed an emphatic 10-4 victory and hauled him into the last 16.
Fans are returning to snooker’s blue ribband event this week and six-time world champion O’Sullivan was approached by a ‘boozed-up’ fan ahead of his match against Joyce on Saturday.
The Rocket revelled in having crowds back in the venue but admits he’ll need to be less visible in the city as he bids to draw level with Stephen Hendry’s record seven Sheffield crowns.
O’Sullivan, 45, said: “I was harassed like you wouldn’t believe – this geezer was coming up to me and I was like ‘please – I’ve get to try and get through this tournament Covid-free, I beg you.’
“People are out and about and it’s just getting busier. People just don’t think, do they? I’ve just got to stay away, I suppose – I can’t go and sit down and all that. I’ll find some places to go where it’s a little bit quieter if I can.
“It’s not nice – I enjoyed last year being at the Crucible, it was lovely. It’s a great venue but it’s hard to get in and out or go and have a coffee somewhere.
“I half expected it – if it’s a problem for me, I’ll just have to go and stay somewhere else and just come in and play at the last minute.
“99 per cent of people have been fine, I was just the odd one. He was a bit boozed-up and was having a mental one.
“It was so busy today and this geezer was a nightmare. There were two of them who came out of a restaurant and who got in my way – it’s not nice for me.
“I’ve just got to stay indoors and stay away. I just realised that it’s pointless trying to go and sit outside and have a nice meal and think you’re going to be left alone. For our own careers and wanting to play the game, we’re forced to try and be as safe as possible just to go to work.
“I want to play in the tournament – if I got to the quarter-finals and had to pull out it would be a sickener.
“That’s the only reason why you want to be careful – as a sportsman I can’t work if I get ill, and that’s my only problem.
“But it was great to have the crowd there – it was brilliant. They’ve missed their snooker and it was fantastic to have them there."
O’Sullivan let his snooker do the talking against Joyce as his three consecutive centuries to win the match marked only the eighth time in Crucible history a player had achieved the feat.
The 37-time ranking event winner also notched five visits of fifty-plus to see off Joyce, the world No.46, and book a last 16 date against Anthony McGill.
The world No.2 has lost in five ranking event finals this season and is gunning to banish his finish line demons on the hallowed Sheffield baize.
He hopes to carry on where he left off in his bid for a seventh world title and says he’ll need to up his game after a below-par first session.
“I’m just going to take it one match at a time – if I can continue the way I finished the match, I can build some momentum,” he added.
“But if I revert to the way I played in the first ten frames, I’ll do well to get as far as the semi-finals.
“I’ve got to try and find something in my game that comes relatively easy, I’m enjoying, and then I can go and get my head around trying to sustain it for 17 days.”
Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3