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Ronnie O'Sullivan: 'People thought I was taking the mickey when I started playing left-handed'

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Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Crucible in 1996.

Image credit: Eurosport

ByEurosport
14/07/2020 at 07:52 | Updated 16/07/2020 at 08:32

Ronnie O'Sullivan admits he wished he began playing left-handed earlier in his career despite causing controversy at the Crucible due to his ambidextrous wizardry.

The five-times world champion lost 16-14 in the 1996 World Championship semi-finals to Peter Ebdon, but his campaign was overshadowed by a bust-up with Canada's Alain Robidoux in the first round in Sheffield.

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O'Sullivan completed a 10-3 win over Robidoux, who was furious when his 20-year-old opponent began playing shots with his left-handed having a constructed a 8-2 lead overnight.

The 1997 World Championship semi-finalist accused O'Sullivan of being "disrespectful" even though his left-handed play has become almost as reliable as his right-handed stance in the ensuing 24 years.

Robidoux continued playing in the ninth frame of the match despite trailing by 43 points with only the pink and black on the table. He refused to shake O'Sullivan's hand at the end of their fiery encounter, but later apologised for misreading the situation.

"I wish I had started playing left-handed sooner," O'Sullivan told Eurosport. "I was playing so poorly with my right hand that I should have switched. I knew that I could pot balls with my left hand. But I was aware that people might have thought I was taking the mickey.

"It just got to the point where I wish I had wished I had done it sooner because it was relaxing me. Alain didn't take it too well. I could understand that at the time. But once I started, it soon became acceptable."

"I beat Peter Ebdon 6-1 in the semi-finals of the Premier League in Kettering a year later playing with my left hand. People quickly realised that I could play as well at times with my left as my right," said O'Sullivan, who is seeded six for this year's tournament which begins on Friday 31 July.

"I won seven frames against Stephen Hendry playing with my left hand in a 10-8 win in the final. And he was world champion at the time. It was unfortunate for Alain, but he apologised to me a couple of years later and said he didn't realise I could play as well as with my left. I accepted his apology. And we were good friends after that."

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World Championship first round draw

  • Judd Trump Eng (1) v Qualifier
  • Yan Bingtao Chn (16) v Qualifier
  • Stephen Maguire Sco (9) v Qualifier
  • Kyren Wilson Eng (8) v Qualifier
  • John Higgins Sco (5) v Qualifier
  • David Gilbert Eng (12) v Qualifier
  • Jack Lisowski Eng (13) v Qualifier
  • Mark Allen NI (4) v Qualifier
  • ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
  • Mark Williams Wal (3) v Qualifier
  • Stuart Bingham Eng (14) v Qualifier
  • Ding Junhui Chn (11) v Qualifier
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan Eng (6) v Qualifier
  • Mark Selby Eng (7) v Qualifier
  • Shaun Murphy Eng (10) v Qualifier
  • Barry Hawkins Eng (15) v Qualifier
  • Neil Robertson Aus (2) v Qualifier
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SnookerWorld ChampionshipRonnie O'Sullivan
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