herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

O'Sullivan blows £1m bonus chance

Ronnie O’Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O'Sullivan saw his hopes of snooker's first £1million jackpot end with a shock defeat at the Northern Ireland Open to world number 82 Elliot Slessor.

Victory at the Dafabet English Open last month set up the possibility of the 41-year-old completing a clean sweep of the four 'Home Nations' events, for which the seven-figure bonus cheque was on offer. But a 4-1 loss to Gateshead-born Slessor in the third round in Belfast killed off the prospect of O'Sullivan landing the richest prize the sport has ever offered.

He would have needed to win this week, add the Scottish Open title in December and also triumph at the Welsh Open in March. But such has been the strength of O'Sullivan's game in recent weeks that it was beginning to look an achievable goal.

Slessor's biggest career scalp came hours after he checked out of his hotel, half-expecting to lose.

The 23-year-old said: "To play Ronnie was just a dream anyway, you know the crowd's going to be full. I just went in not expecting anything. All I wanted to do was try my best and have a good attitude and see how far it got us.

"We checked out this morning just in case because we've got a flight tonight at half eight, which obviously I can't make now so I need to try to find a hotel."

Assessing his win, Slessor had his say on recent comments from O'Sullivan regarding the strength of the game down the rankings.

O'Sullivan has claimed the tour's lower reaches are populated by "numpties", but Slessor said: "I know everybody can play on their day. As Ronnie says... there's not as many numpties as he probably thinks there is."

There was a second major shock in the third round, with Gary Wilson ousting four-time world champion John Higgins in a see-saw contest 4-3.

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