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Ronnie O’Sullivan insists “no hard feelings” after thrashing Hossein Vafaei

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“I can be the next Ronnie O’Sullivan” says Hossein Vafaei after crushing Crucible defeat

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O’Sullivan and Vafaei embraced at the conclusion of their clash

Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he bears “no hard feelings” towards Hossein Vafaei following his comprehensive rout of the Iranian at the Crucible.

The seven-time World champion roared through to a 21st quarter-final after completing a thumping 13-2 victory with a session to spare on Saturday.

O’Sullivan and Vafaei were embroiled in a war of words ahead of their second-round showdown in Sheffield. The Rocket had warned rivals not to “rattle my cage”, before the Iranian claimed his opponent was “such a nice person when he’s asleep”.

Although, a very one-sided contest ensued. Having established a healthy 6-2 advantage on Friday, O’Sullivan snatched frame 10 with a 58 clearance from 59-2 down to move 8-2 ahead.

The Rocket followed that with runs of 68, 82 and 64, before finishing with back-to-back centuries of 107 and 116.

However, the feud appeared to be settled with both players sharing an embrace and smile at the contest’s conclusion.

O’Sullivan, who famously attempted to rile Stephen Hendry ahead of their 2002 semi-final showdown, empathised with Vafaei, who he is confident will learn from the experience.

“I did the same years ago with Stephen and I totally regretted it,” the seven-time champion told WST. “I was pumped up by someone else to say it, it wasn’t what I would have said.

“Then afterwards I thought: ‘why did I do that?’ Stephen didn’t speak to me for two years. He was my hero, why would I want to disrespect my hero? Two years later, I apologised and he said it was forgotten, and then we were friends again.

“There are no hard feelings from me. I love Hossein, he is a great guy and a brilliant player. He has not had it easy with his visa issues, it was heart-breaking to see what he had to go through. But he keeps going.

“He will come back stronger from this. He is well capable of being a top-16 player and he is still young.”

“I don’t regret what I said. It was nice for the people,” Vafaei added. “Everywhere you looked, snooker was top of the news. It’s good to have character, it makes people interested in the snooker.

“It’s completely off my chest now. Whatever he did to me, I have given it back, so I don’t have any reason to be bad with him now. He knew that as well, he said ‘let’s be friends’. I hope he wins the tournament because he’s too good.

“This year, I lost to the greatest – it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count. Next year, I will 100 per cent be here and stronger with the help of the people.”

Elsewhere, Neil Robertson crashed out at the last-16 stage for the second year running after going down 13-7 against an inspired Jak Jones.

The 2010 champion, who trailed 10-6 overnight, was seeking his first appearance in the one-table setup at the Crucible in nine years, and appeared to be on the comeback trail when he produced a neat 83 clearance from 53-1 down in the opening frame of the final session.

However, it proved a false down as the Welshman took the next on the pink, before eventually sealing a hugely credible victory with a magnificent 138 total clearance.

Jones is the first Crucible debutant to reach the quarter-finals since Anthony McGill, who hit three centuries on the way to taking a 7-1 lead during a dominant opening session against Jack Lisowski.

Awaiting Jones in the last eight is Mark Allen after the Pistol wasted little time in wrapping up a commanding 13-4 victory over 2015 champion Stuart Bingham.

Another debutant continues to impress. Si Jiahui, who stunned Shaun Murphy in the opening round, hit breaks of 103, 82, 69 and 66 on the way to establishing a 6-2 overnight advantage against Robert Milkins.

Meanwhile, four-time champion Mark Selby reeled off the final three frames of the opening session to lead Gary Wilson 5-3.

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World Snooker Championship 2023 Day Eight Scores

Saturday April 22

Second Round

Anthony McGill 7-1 Jack Lisowski
Mark Allen 13-4 Stuart Bingham
Ronnie O’Sullivan 13-2 Hossein Vafaei
Jak Jones 13-7 Neil Robertson
Robert Milkins 2-6 Si Jiahui
Gary Wilson 3-5 Mark Selby