Ronnie O’Sullivan has dismissed retirement talk as he threw down the gauntlet to his fellow professionals, saying someone would have to “knock me off my perch” before he considers quitting snooker.
O’Sullivan arrived at the World Championship in Sheffield as the world No. 1 after another impressive season, but most of the talk has been about his future after a scathing attack from Hossein Vafaei last week.
Vafaei accused the six-time world champion of being “disrespectful” to snooker and urged him to leave the sport.
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Prior to his first-round win over David Gilbert at the Crucible, O’Sullivan branded the attack “just words” and claimed he found it funny.
However the story refuses to go away and O’Sullivan was again asked about Vafaei’s remarks when he dropped in on the Eurosport studio ahead of Monday’s evening session.
“I kind of thought about it [retiring] but do you retire when you’re No. 1 in the world?” said O’Sullivan.
“Maybe it is a good time to retire, right at the top… But no, I’m still enjoying my snooker. I still enjoy playing.
“Someone’s going to have to come and knock me off my perch before I start thinking about retiring.”
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Vafaei became the first Iranian player to qualify for the World Championship, but opted to use the platform to slam O’Sullivan.
“A lot of things he says frustrates me. What kind of legend are you if you call people numpties?" Vafaei told the Metro, referencing O’Sullivan’s tongue-in-cheek "numpties" rant on Eurosport's digital channels.
"I was and am still good friends with him, but I don’t like that. Maybe he likes it and gives him a good feeling, but I think people should treat him like that as well. I treat him like he deserves."
The spicy comments sparked plenty of reaction, with three-time world champion Mark Williams branding some of Vafaei's remarks “crazy” and Shaun Murphy calling them “bizarre”.
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O’Sullivan is seeking to match Stephen Hendry’s haul of seven world titles in Sheffield, with fellow Eurosport expert Jimmy White lauding his fellow Englishman ahead of his second-round meeting with Mark Allen or Scott Donaldson.
When asked whether O’Sullivan’s longevity at the top was “unbelievable” by host Radzi Chinyanganya, White said: “It would be for most sportsmen but not for Ronnie O’Sullivan.
“His talent, will to win and what he’s brought to his game… he’s changed things and become a great tactical player, knows when to attack. But what he does enjoy doing is getting in and scoring and winning the game in one visit.
“There’s no one better and that’s why he’s world No. 1.”
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Stream the World Championship and other top snooker live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.
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