Masters 2017: Ronnie O’Sullivan wants to win with the style of Lionel Messi
By Owen Phillips
Reigning Masters champion Ronnie O’Sullivan says entertaining fans is more important than titles and he wants to be the Lionel Messi of snooker.
World number 13 O’Sullivan begins his quest for a record-breaking seventh Masters crown against China’s Liang Wenbo in the first round on Sunday.
But the 41-year-old told BBC Sport: “I want to try to win playing an exciting, aggressive and attacking game.
“It is OK to win, but I want to win with style.”
O’Sullivan said he wanted fans to be able to say he doesn’t just win, but he “delivers entertainment as well”.
“I think I have done that over the over the last five or six years,” he added.
“I have put on some magnificent performances – performances I am very proud of.
“Sometimes people say you can’t play like that and win. Well, Michael van Gerwen has proved you can, Lionel Messi proves you can, Tiger Woods does, Roger Federer does. I want to try to be one of them.”
Victory for O’Sullivan at Alexandra Palace would move the 28-time ranking event winner clear of Stephen Hendry and see him retain the title he won by thrashing Barry Hawkins 10-1 in 2016.
“I still want to win tournaments – but for me it is about people coming to watch, people switching on their televisions wanting to see good entertainment,” he said.
“It would be great to get another Masters, not because it’s the seventh, but because it’s the Masters. I don’t think ‘I’ve got to break the record’, I just want to win another Masters.
“I want to win another Worlds and another Welsh and China Open. I just want to win more tournaments.”
Although he dominated a one-sided final against Hawkins last season, O’Sullivan said a back injury meant he struggled and feared for his career.
“I slipped a disc and I couldn’t get in the right position for my shots,” he said. “Fortunately I overcame that a couple of weeks after the Masters and it is not a problem now.
“But it was really hard mentally. I was struggling because I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to play properly again because of my back.
“Winning the tournament is the main goal and that was a great box ticked, but my performance wasn’t great. I have played a lot better and lost tournaments. I think I got a bit lucky in some ways.”
This time around he is far happier with his fitness – and his form – after a difficult start to the season.
“The first two months of the season were difficult because I didn’t really practise going into the season,” the Essex man said. “I didn’t really play for three months.
“I lost matches early on and it wasn’t losing the matches that bothered me, it was how I was playing. I was struggling and getting to the last 16 was a good result.”
O’Sullivan reached finals at the European Open final in Romania as well as the Champion of Champions event in Coventry, before losing a high-quality UK Championship final to world number one Mark Selby.
“From mid-November to mid-December I had a really good month where I was happy with my form and I was enjoying it,” he said.
Mastering the Masters
The invitation tournament is one of snooker’s triple crown events and features the world’s top 16 players competing for a top prize of £200,000.
“Sometimes it’s the easiest one to win because you are playing against the best players,” said O’Sullivan.
“You know what they will do and what they will bring to the table; you know their what their best game is like, what their worst game is like and what their middle game is like. You know everything about their games.
“The tougher matches are sometimes guys that you don’t know; you don’t know their strengths and weaknesses.
“With the Masters you know what you are getting involved in.”