Barry Hearn hits back at Ronnie O'Sullivan's 'bully' claims

"Mark is world No.1 and the reigning world champion - it's now his time and he's been making the most of that", said O'Sullivan, who last won the World Championship in 2013 and lost to Selby in the 2014 final. Moments later, a spectator in the second row, close to the players, lurched out of an ill-timed afternoon nap and loudly said: "Oh f****** hell, excuse me".

Snooker's governing body wrote to the five-time world champion and fined earlier this year to warn him about his behaviour after he criticised a referee during the Masters and gave a series of freakish interviews in the past couple of months, including the spectacle of O'Sullivan using a robot voice for one. "Get Me Out Of Here", O'Sullivan said in a reference to two British television "reality" shows.

Nevertheless, O'Sullivan - who has failed to win back-to-back matches at the five previous events he has competed in since lifting the Masters trophy at London's Alexandra Palace in January - insisted he would focus on the task at hand as he went in search of a sixth world title.

That grievance seemingly dates to an incident during his seventh Masters triumph when he publicly criticised a referee and swore at a photographer.

However, O'Sullivan was not fined for his Masters remarks after being asked to explain his criticisms.

"I've had it for five, six, seven years, and I'm just done with it", O'Sullivan added.

"I need to be in the right frame of mind to have a chance".

Hearn declined to respond to O'Sullivan on Sunday evening.

Hendry said: "Selby's going to be tough to beat I think". Get Me Out Of Here, I could have a great life doing other stuff.

Former world champion Shaun Murphy nearly blew the chance to take on O'Sullivan on Thursday, surviving a real scare against the 17-year-old Yan Bingtao from China.

The 33-year-old from Leicester also won the China Open at the start of April, and looks in shape to become the first player to follow that achievement with Crucible glory.

But O'Brien, who won the longest frame in professional snooker history - a marathon effort of more than two hours - to book his place in the main draw as he completed a 10-9 qualifying win over Dave Gilbert, finally got on the scoreboard by taking the ninth frame with breaks of 23 and 32.

Meanwhile, Antrim's Mark Allen was at his battling best to recover from 3-1 and 4-2 down to lead 5-4 at the end of the first session of his first-round match against qualifier Jimmy Robertson.

  • Salvatore Jensen