Neil’s notes: Defending champion faces uphill task against Perry

Five-time Crucible champion Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Five-time Crucible champion Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Champions are champions because they can produce their best form when their backs are against the wall.

And that’s what defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will have to do today if he’s going to keep his hopes alive of winning a sixth world title this season.

The ‘Rocket’ resumed yesterday 5-3 down to Cambridgeshire cueman Joe Perry at the Crucible – and, perhaps surprisingly, he finished the day 9-7 down in the pair’s second round showdown.

O’Sullivan was far from his fluent best despite a couple of notable breaks as he shared the second session of the pair’s best-of-25 frame duel at 4-4.

But the Chigwell cueman knows he must raise his game if he’s going to avoid a shock second defeat. Take nothing away from Perry who impressed despite O’Sullivan’s inability to fire.

Perry, a former Crucible semi-finalist, stressed that O’Sullivan was beatable and would give him chances.

Those predictions have nearly come true, although Perry knows he will have to remain firmly focused this morning when the pair finish their match with a quarter-final place up for grabs.

Breaks of 68, 63, 88 and 73 saw Perry power 9-6 ahead, before O’Sullivan won a scrappy frame to reduce his deficit before the end of the day.

Golden oldies Alan McManus and Ken Doherty, the two oldest players in the event, had to be pulled off with a frame still to play because of pensioner pace in their match. McManus leads 4-3 after breaks of 107, 69 and 71.

Meanwhile, former Sheffield United and current Doncaster loan striker Billy Sharp took some time off this week to visit the Crucible, a welcome distraction from Rovers’ battle to avoid relegation.

“Ronnie O’Sullivan is my favourite player,” revealed Sharp. “I’ve been to the snooker the last five or six years now; I always try and get to the Crucible once or twice a year.”

Mark Selby booked his place in the last eight after defeating Ali Carter 13-9 last night while Barry Hawkins trails Ricky Walden 9-7.

Today’s schedule: 10am & 7pm – O’Sullivan v Perry, Doherty v McManus; 2.30pm – Hawkins v Walden, Ryan Day v Judd Trump.