Hossein Vafaei believes he can be “the next Ronnie O’Sullivan” as he looks to learn from his brutal Second Round defeat at the World Snooker Championship.
Vafaei was thrashed 13-2 by a merciless O’Sullivan in their highly-anticipated show-down in Sheffield, with the defending champion wrapping up victory with a session to spare.
O’Sullivan had established a commanding 6-2 lead following a drama-filled first session on Friday which had seen Vafaei smash open the reds from the break off in frame two.
The Rocket returned on Saturday to reel off seven unanswered frames and seal his most emphatic Second Round scoreline in 31 Crucible campaigns.
The pair had become embroiled in a war of words leading up to the contest and exchanged a frosty fist pump prior to the opening session, but shared a warm embrace at the conclusion and left the arena arm in arm.
Reflecting on the experience, Vafaei told Eurosport: “It’s been a great journey.
“I am disappointed a little bit not to be involved in the tournament anymore, but I lost to the greatest ever.
“The way he hits the ball, the way he plays, no one can compete with Ronnie O’Sullivan to be honest.
“If I can get a little bit of help, I can be the next Ronnie O’Sullivan, I swear.
“I think the way I play is a bit similar, but today the way he was hitting the ball, I was thinking ‘I don’t want to hit the ball, I just want to see him play’.
“He played fantastic and well done to him, I got my lesson.
“I’ve learnt things in that match which will help me in the future.
“He’s probably going to give the other players a lesson as well.”
O’Sullivan played down the role Vafaei’s pre-match comments had in motivating him, and told BBC Sport: “It’s not a personal thing for me, but I’ve always said don’t doubt me, I’ll tell you when I’m done.
“I take it [criticism] as a motivation to still prove that I am still good, I can still play this game.
“It’s not a personal thing, but when Hossein said that I thought ‘OK, this is going to help me’.
“You don’t get personal with this game, it’s the game you try and master.
“But quarter-finals don’t excite me, this tournament is all about winning. For me there’s no in-between.”
O’Sullivan wrapped up victory with back-to-back tons, with a 107 in frame 14 marking the 1,200th century break of his career.
The Rocket will continue his quest for a record-breaking eighth world title with a Quarter-Final clash against Belgium’s Luca Brecel, which gets under way on Tuesday.
"A ?????? ???? way to end." ?
— Eurosport (@eurosport) April 22, 2023
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