Hossein Vafaei storms past Ding Junhui to set up Ronnie O’Sullivan showdown

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Hossein Vafaei produced a stunning display of scoring to beat Ding Junhui 10-6 and set up a grudge match with defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Cazoo World Championship.

Vafaei trailed 5-4 overnight but rattled off the first four frames when play resumed on Monday morning at the Crucible, the Iranian making breaks of 117, 122, 68 and 57 in rapid succession.

Ding stopped the rot after the mid-session interval with a break of 77, only for Vafaei to end a safety exchange in frame 15 with an audacious plant into the middle pocket, despite the cue ball being tight on the cushion.

That led to a break of 89 and Vafaei sealed an impressive win in the next frame to secure a showdown with O’Sullivan in the last 16.

Vafaei had called on O’Sullivan to retire last year and stated he was “not good for the game” and “sometimes disrespectful” with his comments about other players.

When reminded after his first-round win over Pang Junxu that he could face Vafaei next, O’Sullivan asked: “What did he say about me? I can’t remember.”

Eurosport pundit Alan McManus responded: “I think he said you should retire,” to which O’Sullivan replied: “Has he been saying much about me this year? I think he’s learned to be quiet.

Hossein Vafaei
Hossein Vafaei beat Ding Junhui 10-6 in the first round of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship in Sheffield (Richard Sellers/PA)

“It turns me on. I get off on it. I need something to find so I’m hoping someone says something and hopefully I get better so I can have a reason to perform.

“They are not going to say anything now are they, because they probably realised it’s not a good tactic to play. We’ll see, but we’ll have some fun.”

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