SHEFFIELD, England (Reuters) – Ronnie O’Sullivan started his World Championship defence with a 10-4 win over Mark Joyce on Saturday as fans were allowed back into sporting events in England for the first time this year.
More than 600 tickets were sold for the three sessions at the Crucible as part of the government’s pilot scheme to help sport out of lockdown after an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Six-time world champion O’Sullivan, 45, was playing on the first day of the tournament and despite a sloppy start he never looked threatened by Joyce as he entertained the reduced crowd.
“It was really nice to have the crowd in because if there was no crowd I could have sunk even lower into my chair,” O’Sullivan told the BBC. “You always like to keep them happy because they pay their money to have a good night out.
“I was pleased I played all right at the end. It was disastrous up until… when I started to play all right…”
Organisers are hoping that a capacity crowd of 980 will be able to see the final on May 2.
(Writing by Ken Ferris; Editing by Daniel Wallis)