It got the entire snooker world talking – it was an incident that pundits in the game said they had never seen before. Let’s take you back to the Crucible two years ago.
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s on-table second round clash with Ali Carter at the Crucible in 2018 was already full of excitement, with Carter forging an 8-3 lead only to be pegged back to 9-8 by the five-times world champion in their second round encounter.
But the heat went up a few levels during an off-table incident that caused 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor to exclaim in commentary: “I’ve never ever seen that in 40 years at the Crucible Theatre,” – writes Annette Lord.
At 10-8 to Carter and with O’Sullivan needing a snooker to prevent The Captain going within two frames of victory, he and Carter bumped shoulders as The Rocket returned to his chair, and O’Sullivan wasn’t happy.
“That’s for being Mr Angry. You shoulder barged me earlier, I thought I’d give you one back,” said the Essex man from his seat as Carter considers his next shot.
“Thank you, it’s very nice of you,” says Carter, grinning.
“Stop being angry then,” replies O’Sullivan, before referee Paul Collier, fascinatingly, intervenes to calm things down and O’Sullivan remarks: “Yeah, I’m cool. Cool as a cucumber,”
Carter, who lost world finals to his opponent in 2008 and 2012, takes the frame but O’Sullivan wins the next to close to 11-9. Yet it’s Carter who adds frame 21 after The Rocket misses a simple blue to middle and wraps things up with a break of 51 to seal victory at 13-9.
Clearly pumped-up, he clenches his fist numerous times in celebration as he leaves the arena, delighted to finally beat O’Sullivan for only the second time in 18 meetings and reach the Crucible quarter finals for the first time in six years.
“I’ve been intimidated by him in the past,” Carter says of O’Sullivan to the BBC afterwards. “But I’ve been through a hell of a lot in my life and I was determined it wasn’t going to happen this time.”
When asked about the ‘barging’ incident, he offered: “It’s tight there, as you know. We’ve just rubbed shoulders a bit harder than what we normally would. It was heat of the moment.”
He added: “Everyone in the crowd, I’ve got a guy next to me, every time Ronnie hits a ball he’s ‘go on Ronnie’ and clapping Ronnie and it just intensifies everything. But it was my day today, he’s had plenty of days. It’s all fair in love and war.”
O’Sullivan’s take on what happened, as one would expect, was a bit different: “We had a shoulder barge earlier on in the match and I just decided that I wasn’t going to bend out of the way again,” he said. “If someone is going to shoulder barge into me what am I going to do? Walk round tiptoeing, doing little curtsies as if he’s the queen or the king? Sometimes you’ve got to stand your ground.”
But he added: “I don’t want to dwell on it, it’s not important. Ali played a great match. I just wasn’t good enough over the match and Ali deserved his victory.”
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