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O'Sullivan: Champs Draw Is Fixed
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Snooker maestro Ronnie O'Sullivan, labeled as "rocket" by fans for his fast and accurate slot "complained" his first round clash with China's prodigy Ding Junhui at the upcoming Championships was deliberately arranged to oust one of the two most red-hot title contenders.

"The World Snooker Association may have juggled with the draw results to erect barricades for me to claim the title," O'Sullivan said to British media during the run-up to the Championships, which will kick off on Saturday.

O'Sullivan half jestingly told the Suns that his first instinction when told the draw result was to believe that the association had picked the toughest guy for him and someone must have done it on purpose.

Joke or not, it may bring forth "Rocket" nothing but trouble. He was exempt from punishment by the association after walking out of the quarter-finals against Stephen Hendry at the All-England Championships last December.

"Whoever my rival will be, they will pose no interference to me on road to winning the title," he said.

After finally ending his world Championships hoodoo and hailed as a future world number one, Ding, too, has been determined not to wrap up his first Champions that early. "I have already played against him (O'Sullivan) so long, so I will see him as an ordinary rival."

However, the picture of the tearful Ding at this year's Masters meltdown is not far away. In O'Sullivan's comforting arms, the then teenager just looked like a rookie.

"He (O'Sullivan) is a great rival and a great friend," Ding said.

Before the Masters, the two friends cum rivals have met at the North Ireland Cup final and Ding claimed the title. But the Sport Life predicted Ding's dispatch by O'Sullivan given his poor performance after the Masters final defeat and continuous engagements at home before his Championships tour.

After the wild onslaught at the Masters final, Ding then saddled first-round exits at three Opens, including the China Open late in March.

What about the upcoming first round with "rocket"?

"The only thing I can tell now is that both of us (with Ding) will turn old some day and all I can do is to be there and play," O'Sullivan said.

(China Daily April 18, 2007)

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