BY HECTOR NUNNS
Ronnie O’Sullivan has savaged the Crucible format – insisting the World Championship could be slashed in half.
The sport’s blue-riband tournament lasts for 17 days – and the champion must win 71 frames in a possible total of 137 played.
The Rocket has lifted the trophy five times but O’Sullivan claims he does not enjoy the event and feels only relief at the end.
And the 40-year-old reckons a worthy winner can be produced in far less time than the current marathon.
Any such move would provoke a storm of protest. When supremo Barry Hearn cut the length of UK Championship matches he was heavily criticised by players.
But O’Sullivan said: “I am not really looking forward to playing at Sheffield, to be honest. For me, it goes on far too long and I am not sure yet how I will approach that tournament.
“It is a very long time — longer than the Olympics.
“First and foremost it is a lot of table time. You have a best of 19 frame match, two best of 25s, a best of 33 and a best of 35 to win.
“The final is over two long days of four sessions, and the semi-finals over three days. The Darts World Championship final is over in two and a half hours.
“I honestly think the world final could be played over the best of 17 frames — first to nine — and have it all done in one day.
“Who needs to play a best-of-25 frame match in the last 16, or one opponent over three days in the semis or even earlier rounds?
“I don’t like it, even though I have won it five times. It is my worst tournament, it goes on and on and on.
“And every time I have won it I have felt a huge sense of relief, and just been glad it was over rather than pure joy.
“The Masters is the perfect tournament, that’s the model for all the big events. The Worlds could be best of 11s, maybe best of 13s for the semis and best of 17 for the final. That is plenty, more than enough.
“For me it is about enjoying playing now, and Sheffield is one of the events I least like playing in – but of course it is our World Championship.
“I would enjoy it more if I went on a tour of Asia or something. I’m sure I won’t and will be there, but that’s how I really feel and don’t look forward to it.
“That said, it is what it is and you have to get on with it while it has this format.”
Things could be worse for O’Sullivan.
When Fred Davis beat Walter Donaldson in the 1948 World Championship final the score was 84 frames to 61!
I’m certain many will disagree with this and I’m one of them … to an extend.
First this is Ronnie not in the best frame of mind. It was plain for all to see at the Masters that his current back problems are weighting on his mind, causing him concerns and anxiety about his future and the state of his game. He hates producing a poor display and can be overly critical of his own performances. Don’t expect any positive interview when he feels low …
Next, it IS true that this is a very long tournament at the end of a long season. During the first week there is a lot of waiting time that the players have to fill the best they can. Many find it hard, especially the older players who have done it all before and have a family.
The second week is relentless snooker and by the time the players reach the final, or even the semi finals they are exhausted. This has often produced one-sided or poor quality matches. Ronnie himself has won his semi final at least three times with a session to spare: the audience then gets an exhibition but they probably feel short changed. This is not what they paid for, and paid quite a lot. We also have had quite a number of anti-climactic finals, poor quality and little suspense, again because a combination of factors: players are emotionally spent and extremely tense because of what is at stake. I’d say that if we look at the last six finals, only two of them were quality: Ronnie v Hawkins because they both played very well and the last one, Bingham v Murphy because it was close and Bingham came back. Some will say that Selby v Ronnie in 2014 was good, but I disagree: it was a match in two halves, with Ronnie dominating a tired Selby on day one, and Selby crushing a flat Ronnie on day two. It made for a good story but it wasn’t a good final.
Also, having been there, all these last six years, you sense that some sessions don’t really get the audience on the edge of their seats, in particular the “middle” sessions of the semi finals and the second session of the final. There is no real tension, there is no result at the end of them (usually), the media room is often half empty…
And finally, I agree that there is no need to play such long matches to find out the best player. Many predicted that we would have surprise winners at the UK when the format was shortened: it did not happen. Since we have the shorter format winners have been Trump, Selby, Ronnie and Robertson twice …
In the past John Higgins and Neil Robertson – both World Champions – have expressed similar criticisms about the lengths of the World Championship. So it’s not just Ronnie.