Five-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan was knocked out of this year’s World Championship after suffering a dramatic 13-12 defeat by Barry Hawkins in a thrilling all-English second-round clash on Monday.
Hawkins, beaten by O’Sullivan in the 2013 final, was on the brink of going through to the last eight at 12-9 up.
But the 40-year-old O’Sullivan, who has enjoyed so many memorable career highlights at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in northern England, responded with breaks of 124, 88 and 63 to force a final-frame decider.
However, with O’Sullivan — far and away the most charismatic player in the game today — on the verge of delighting his fans with a comeback win, Hawkins regained his composure.
The 11th-seed’s break of 56 gave him the initial advantage in a scrappy final frame before O’Sullivan’s in-off saw Hawkins seal victory.
“I fancied my chances but when a frame goes like that it’s a bit of a toss of a coin and if there was a weakness in my game it was definitely on the tactical side,” said O’Sullivan.
“I was second best in 90 or even 100 percent of every frame that went like that, and if it wasn’t won in one visit I probably lost all of them. I feel like a golfer birdying 15 holes but taking triple-triple bogeys on three holes.”
– ‘Figurehead’ -O’Sullivan, who was reprimanded by snooker chiefs for failing to attend a press conference earlier in the tournament, added: “I find it difficult being a figurehead of the sport with all the attention on me and such a high expectation on me, including from myself, and sometimes I don’t handle that well.
“Hopefully with a bit of help and support I can manage the pressure and stress I put on myself and that comes from you guys (the press) as well, because you kind of make out I’ve won the tournament before I even turn up.”
Hawkins will now play Hong Kong’s Marco Fu in the quarter-finals.
His win over O’Sullivan was the first time Hawkins had beaten the “Rocket” in 14 years and came just three months after he suffered a humiliating 10-1 defeat by the snooker great in the Masters final at London’s Alexandra Palace.
“I knew I had to play really well but I definitely had a different mindset from going into the Masters final,” said Hawkins. “I’m just delighted to get another victory over him after 14 years — it might be 14 years before I beat him again.”
On the other table, four-time world champion John Higgins, 10-6 in front overnight, beat Ricky Walden 13-8 and will now face Alan McManus in an all-Scottish quarter-final.
Earlier China’s Ding Junhui made good on his overnight lead to beat 2011 finalist Judd Trump 13-10 and he will next play former world champion Mark Williams.
Rising star Kyren Wilson reached the last eight by beating Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen 13-9 and he will now face former world number one Mark Selby.