Steve Davis, Steve Peters and Barry Hearn talk about Ronnie

The Evening Standard has today published this triple interview, discussing why Ronnie is the best player of his generation.

What makes Ronnie O’Sullivan the best player of his generation and the man to beat at the Snooker World Championships?

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Rocket Man: Ronnie O’Sullivan ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Ronnie O’Sullivan is bidding to become the first player in his forties to win a world title since Ray Reardon achieved the sixth of his victories in 1978.

The 40-year-old is the clear favourite for the Crucible at odds of 7-4 to match the six world titles of Reardon and Steve Davis when the tournament gets under way tomorrow.

Ahead of his first-round encounter against David Gilbert, Standard Sport spoke to Davis and others close to O’Sullivan to ask what makes him the best player of his generation and why he is the man to beat.

BBC PUNDIT STEVE DAVIS

“I’ve never seen anybody who looks as at one with the table as Ronnie. It’s the epitome of someone born to play the game.

“We’ve had great players and great talents but no one approaches the table so wonderfully as he does prowling around it. It just looks like he’s found the one thing that he’s perfect at.

“I’ve seen some great players but Ronnie’s on another level with wonderful technique and he’s a great match player as well. Everything’s on another level. Snooker is a very hard game which he makes look very easy.

“I don’t know how many years in the game he has left. I think he’s capable of winning tournaments when he’s 50. He has a special gene, I think, which means he could last longer than most if he wants to. 

“He could still be doing it in the top in 10 years’ time. The big question is does he want to?

“I don’t necessarily expect him to win the World Championship but he’s got a fantastic chance as he’s in great form. The biggest threat is himself, I’d guess. If he has his head on his shoulders, because it lasts so long and there’s a lot of downtime and time to fill, he has to be the favourite.

“I think if he was to beat Stephen Hendry’s record of seven wins  he needed to do it last year. It’s very realistic he equals mine and Ray’s  six but, as the years go on, to get eight is hard.”

PSYCHIATRIST STEVE PETERS

“It must have been 2011 that I first met him two weeks before the World Championship, so we couldn’t really do anything in that time. But I worked with him after that and he won the next two world titles.

“We hit it off straight away. I work with a lot of people and the key is to put the work in. He was and still is amazing for that. 

“He was challenging at the beginning but he was very keen to get it right. Within days he got it. He’s very good at working on his emotional skills.

“We still sit down face to face, text, phone, Skype and FaceTime. He’s a very, very good student. 

“If you look at anybody there are life stresses and we deal with it differently. You have to learn the skill to deal with those things. He’s an emotional man and we’ve worked on managing those emotions. 

“As for how he compares to other people I’ve worked with like Chris Hoy or Victoria Pendleton, I can’t compare. That’s like asking me to compare children. He’s a very unique person. There’s no recipe or menu — you have to work as a team to find out how his mind works.

“He’s scrutinised a lot and he’s a very open character. He’s like an open book so he speaks his mind but I think sometimes it gives a false impression of what’s going on. What he says in front of the cameras might actually be very different to how he properly feels afterwards if he talks it through.

“A lot of people have a perception of Ronnie and some people might see him as disorganised and fleeting. I see a very different side, I see a driven man who’ll be very organised and disciplined once he decides to do something. It’s the same with his running.

“He’s in a good place. It’s a privilege to work with him. I just can’t fault him. When I first met him I asked him about his dreams and ambitions. One of the things I wanted him to do was win a world title aged 40. It was a bit tongue in cheek but there was some seriousness there, too.”

PROMOTER BARRY HEARN

“Ronnie’s the best we’ve ever seen. He has the skills of an Alex Higgins or Jimmy White with the consistency and safety of a Steve Davis or Stephen Hendry. When he’s concentrating and he’s got his head on, he’s unbeatable. He stands like a colossus over the game. No one is bigger than the sport but Ronnie gets as close as anyone. He’s like Tiger Woods or Phil Taylor at their peak.

“I first saw him when he was 12 or 13 and he was already a precocious talent but it was difficult to judge how good he would turn out to be. 

“I’ve seen a lot of talented youngsters but his parents were very supportive — almost spoilt him a bit. 

“He exemplifies how you think the game should be played, not just from the creative sense and technical sense but the excitement watching him. He’s magic. Ronnie, like Higgins, has that vulnerability and I think that almost adds to his popularity.

“Everyone sees this swashbuckling Ronnie but the other side is the guy that will do five or six hours of practice at the table a day ahead of the Crucible.

“The World Championship is tough as it’s a long one at 17 days. The young players are like birds of prey and Ronnie’s the biggest scalp. People say he’ll leave a void but that void is always filled. He is the most special of talents. He gives me grey hairs sometimes.”