Ronnie O’Sullivan complained about the conditions after humidity in the Crucible Theatre led to a series of miscues as he took a 5-3 lead against Mark Selby in their World Snooker Championship semi-final on Wednesday.
After both players suffered a series of bad cue ball contacts in the third frame, five-time world champion O’Sullivan told referee Paul Collier: “I’ve never had kicks like that before in my life.”
Tournament officials took the unusual step of changing the balls during the mid-session interval and the kicks appeared to subside as O’Sullivan earned his slender advantage heading into Thursday’s session.
Pundits including six-time runner-up Jimmy White have suggested the warm weather may be a factor in the increased incidences of contact issues this year.
White said on Eurosport that “it might be the humidity outside”, while O’Sullivan himself referenced the “damp conditions” after his second-round win over Ding Junhui.
A World Snooker Tour spokesman confirmed that “humidity is bound to be a factor”, but pointed out that kicks have been “dramatically reduced” in recent years following the introduction of an anti-static cloth.
O’Sullivan had been the first to suffer in the opening frame when a bad contact on a black brought his break of 59 to an end, although a brilliant long red belatedly helped him nudge ahead.
Both players made uncharacteristic errors in the following frame, with Selby’s proving the most costly when he caught a red on the lip of the pocket on a break of 39, and some fine long-potting from O’Sullivan helped him extend his lead.
Selby held on to win a near-farcical third frame in which the three-time champion was seen to express his frustration, and after which O’Sullivan engaged Collier in conversation as his opponent briefly left the arena.
In the other semi-final, Anthony McGill made a fast start against Kyren Wilson as the Scot raced into a 6-2 lead.
The 29-year-old is playing in his first World Championship semi-final, but he showed no signs of nerves as he won the first three frames.
McGill rounded off a superb performance with a break of 92 to secure a four-frame advantage against eighth seeded Wilson, who knocked out defending champion Judd Trump in the quarter-finals.