Reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan says he was “harassed” by a “boozed-up” fan while he was relaxing prior to his first-round win.
|Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 17 April-3 May|
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O’Sullivan beat qualifier Mark Joyce 10-4 at the World Championship, which has restricted numbers of fans back as part of a pilot scheme.
Defending champion O’Sullivan said: “About 99% of people have been fine.
“It is the odd one. He was boozed up – it is what it is.”
O’Sullivan, 45, had previously said he wanted “protection” from fans at the tournament, which will have increasing numbers of spectators as it progresses, culminating in a planned capacity crowd of 980 for the final.
The World Snooker Tour body has advised players not to pose for selfies or sign autographs while in Sheffield.
But O’Sullivan had warned he feared having to “fend off over-excited fans or someone who might have had a drink that wants to get in your space”.
The world number two and top seed was having lunch and a coffee with friends in between Saturday’s morning and evening sessions when the incident happened.
“I knew it would happen if it got busy,” O’Sullivan said. “What can you do? People don’t think, do they?
“I was harassed like you wouldn’t believe it. The geezer’s come up to me, I was like: ‘Please, I have to get through this tournament Covid-free. I beg you.’
“It’s getting busier. The geezer was a nightmare. The guy at the restaurant came out with his two staff members, they got him away.
“It’s no-one’s fault. People have been let out and are out shopping. It’s the way it is. Last year it was different and it is different this year. It was so much quieter; you could sit outside last year and have a meal.
“Most people are fed up with these lockdowns and want to live their lives now. It was one or two. It’s the way it is. If I didn’t have to be clean for this tournament, it wouldn’t matter so much, but if I get Covid I cannot play.
“I have to stay away. I will find places to go where it is a little bit quieter if I can. I will come in at the last minute, stay away from Sheffield as much as I can.”