The Masters 2019 – Day 2

The second day in Ally Pally saw both top seeds go through although the matches didn’t really unfold as expected.

A tired Ronnie, who revealed after the match that he had suffered a bad bout of insomnia, beat Stuart Bingham by 6-2. Stuart, who had just won Group 4 in the Championship League snooker, was far from his best and was unable to take advantage of Ronnie’s lapses in concentration.

You can read all about the Ronnie vs Bingham match here

The evening match saw Ding Junhui take on the only debutant in this years field, Jack Lisowski. Ding wasn’t at his best either but Jack, apparently overawed by the circumstances and environment, was totally unable to take advantage.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Ding Junhui won a match at Alexandra Palace for only the second time, scoring an emphatic 6-1 victory over debutant Jack Lisowski at the Dafabet Masters.

China’s Ding won this event in 2011, the last time it was staged at Wembley Arena. Since it has moved to its new home across North London he has never been past the quarter-finals, but he will reach the semis if he can beat Luca Brecel on Thursday evening.

In truth tonight’s scoreline did not reflect the balance of play as Lisowski had chances in most of the frames. He admitted before the tournament that he could struggle to concentrate on his first appearance in snooker’s biggest invitation event, and so it proved as he was unable to take the opportunities which came his way.

Ding won the first frame with a break of 66 and added the second with a 33 clearance after Lisowski had broken down when leading 49-40. Frame three came down to a long safety battle on the pink and Ding converted excellent pots on the pink and black for 3-0. The fourth also could have gone either way but Ding cleared from green to black to snatch it by a point.

World number eight Ding maintained his momentum after the interval with a run of 123 to lead 5-0. Lisowski, who has climbed into the top 16 for the first time after some fine results this season, pulled one back with a break of 60. But Ding won the seventh in three scoring visits to seal the result.

Ding said: “Jack was under more pressure than me, so he made more mistakes. When it’s your first time here you really want to get in front so the first frame was important. The chances were always there but he didn’t take them and sometimes you can get punished.

“For me, no matter how I play, I just want to win. I believe I can do well at this venue for the next few seasons. It’s a good start.

“The Masters is only 16 players. They’re all good and there are no easy games. Even if your opponent’s not playing well it’s still a hard game. Concentration is the first thing.”

Lisowski said: “In the early part of the game I just didn’t settle down fast enough. By the end I felt pretty exhausted. I’ve never played in front of a crowd that involved, it was such a buzz and when I won that frame to go 5-1 it just drained me.

“It’s my first time here so it’s about getting that out of the way and taking it all in. I didn’t feel too bad out there, some of my safety was ok. If I can play my game I think I’ll have a chance eventually. I was pretty nervous before the game, but I actually felt ok out there.

“I was thinking ‘this is why I play’ and this is the atmosphere I want to play in. It was a bit disappointing, but it wasn’t a disaster.”

After the match, Ding appeared happy and relaxed, which is good to see. Only too often in the past he looked unhappy and dispirited even after winning. Ding has to contend with the expectations of a nation since a very young age, all eyes are always on him; this can’t be easy. Becoming a father seems to have brought another dimension to his life.

The first round matches are always a bit of a banana skin for the top seeds, and the main goal is simply to win it, nevermind if it’s brilliantly or ugly. Mission accomplished for Ding and Ronnie yesterday.

 

The Masters 2019 – Ronnie beats Stuart Bingham in last 16

It wasn’t the match most expected, as Stuart Bingham didn’t play anywhere near his best and Ronnie wasn’t that sharp either but he got the job done. Ronnie admitted in the studio that he hadn’t slept well … which in a way is reassuring, because he wasn’t as reliable in the balls as he has been earlier this season.

That said, more than the two centuries, it was the way he finished that pleased me. It looked like going 5-3, when Stuart missed being 67-1 ahead with 67 on the table. The way the last frame and a half had gone, it looked like mission impossible. But Ronnie played a fantastic mid-long red to start the fight back. He needed all blacks with the remaining reds to win by one point. This proved impossible, he chose to play position on pink instead of risking a nearly impossible black. He could then only level. A re-spotted black it was … and both played it well, but eventually it was Stuart who made the mistake.

masters2019rosl16win

masters2019rosl16stats

Masters 2019 ROS L16 Scores

masters2019rosl16stats-2

Here is the report on Worldsnooker

Ronnie O’Sullivan made two centuries and four more breaks over 50 as he stormed into the quarter-finals of the Dafabet Masters with a 6-2 win over Stuart Bingham.

On a day when The Spectator magazine described O’Sullivan‘ as the most skilful sportsperson the world has ever seen’, he showed off his unique talent to a 2,000-strong full house at Alexandra Palace. The Rocket now faces Ryan Day on Thursday afternoon.

World number three O’Sullivan won the Masters for a record seventh time in 2017, and he set another new record at last month’s UK Championship when he landed a 19th Triple Crown title. In perhaps the best form of his career at the age of 43, he has won three of the five tournaments he has contested this season, losing just two out of 29 matches. And on today’s evidence, his game remains razor sharp.

After losing a scrappy opening frame, O’Sullivan won five in a row with breaks of 59, 96, 134, 111 and 60. The two centuries took his career tally to 988, just 12 short of the landmark of 1,000 he will surely reach over the coming weeks.

Bingham pulled one back with a 71 and made 62 in the next. But his hopes of recovering to 5-3 were soon dashed. O’Sullivan made a 66 clearance to force a respotted black, then got the better of a safety exchange  before slotting the black into a top corner.

“I felt alright in spells, and I missed a few,” said Chigwell’s O’Sullivan. “Stuart didn’t play too well. It was just one of those games where you do what you can to get over the line.”

O’Sullivan admitted a lack of sleep had left him tired during today’s match. “Hopefully I can feel a bit fresher on Thursday,” he said. “I’ve had insomnia for about seven or eight years. Sometimes it’s alright and sometimes it’s not. Last night I was absolutely shattered and I’m just relieved to get over the line today.”

He was also asked about tennis player Andy Murray whose career may have come to an end today due to injury. O’Sullivan said: “I’ve never met the guy, but obviously he’s done amazingly well to break the mould. For a lot of British tennis players, a bit like the football team, it was ingrained in them to just be happy with the semi-final or make the final and that would be classed as a victory. He’s probably one of our best sportsmen of all time.”

Bingham said: “It was definitely a below-par performance. I had a chance in more or less every frame, but I just couldn’t seem to get hold of the white. I just needed to settle down but from 1-1 Ronnie played one visit snooker. He’s the best player in the world, and you aren’t going to get a second chance when you leave him in the balls.

“It’s more embarrassing when you played like that in front of a packed crowd. I just couldn’t seem to get going.

“It’s my daughter’s second birthday today so not the birthday present I wanted for her but I’ll spend the day with her now.”

And here the one on the BBC website

Seven-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan eased past Stuart Bingham 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Masters.

Bingham took a scrappy opener but O’Sullivan soon got into his rhythm with breaks of 96, 134, 111 and 60 on the way to five frames in a row.

A run of 71 pulled one back for Bingham but O’Sullivan made 66 and pinched the eighth on a nervy, re-spotted black to progress and faces Ryan Day next.

This was O’Sullivan first match since winning a record seventh UK Championship title in York on 9 December and his 19 Triple Crown event triumphs – which includes five World Championships – is the most of any player.

Though he made a slow start in the first round against Bingham in London, his two centuries in the match took him to 988 in his career as he aims to become the first player to 1,000.

Bingham was 66 ahead in what turned out to be the last frame as O’Sullivan potted four blacks and a pink with five reds to force a re-spotted black and after an exchange of 14 shots, O’Sullivan stroked it in to go through.

O’Sullivan told BBC TV: “It is hard to analyse how you played but I tried to be as professional and disciplined and draw on all my experience. It was getting tense and I was relieved to get over the line.

“He looked like he was getting stronger at the end. I made a few mistakes, let him in and the game can punish you sometimes. You have to put your foot to the metal and go as hard as you can for as long as you can.

“I have been in 12 finals and only won seven, I should have won a few more, I have thrown a few away (from winning positions).

“I can play for another 10 years but I get tired now. I have had insomnia for seven years and it catches you out sometimes, I felt really tired today. I was not sure how I would do but the adrenaline kicked in and you hit a slump again but it kicks in again.”

BBC

ES

Ronnie’s postmatch with Rob Walker

And to conclude some great images, thanks to Tai Chengzhe

The Masters 2019 – Day 1

Day 1 in Ally Pally didn’t exactly bring the results most people expected.

Those were the previews…

Luca Brecel beat Mark Allen, the defending champion, by 6-5 in an overall excellent match. From what I had seen from Luca in the CLS, I knew he was playing well, although, of course the Masters environment is a different it possibly could be from the CLS. I thought that Mark Allen could suffer under pressure, but, TBH, there was no evidence of that this time. Maybe what did make the difference was that Luca took the offer to have a bit of practice on the match table, and Mark declined. As the pundits explained, this isn’t really about practice, it’s about getting a feeling of the table, its pace, the cushions reaction etc…  Luca made the better start, he led 3-1 at MSI and, maybe, this is because he came there knowing what to expect from the conditions.

Anyway, here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Mark Allen’s defence of his Dafabet Masters title was short lived as he lost 6-5 to Luca Brecel in the opening match of the tournament.

A full house of 2,000 fans at Alexandra Palace witnessed a tremendous contest, with two centuries and eight more breaks over 50 in the 11 frames. Belgium’s Brecel was never behind and eventually secured victory in a tense deciding frame. He goes through to the quarter-finals to face Ding Junhui or Jack Lisowski on Thursday evening.

Allen won his first Triple Crown title here 12 months ago, and went on to enjoy the best year of his career in 2018. He has won two ranking events this season but couldn’t get the better of a determined opponent today.

Brecel took the opening frame with a break of 75 then Allen levelled with a 67. A run of 50 saw Brecel regain the lead and he got the better of frame four to make it 3-1 at the interval.

World number six Allen fought back with 96 and 136 for 3-3. Brecel then made a 140, an early contender for the £10,000 high break prize. The superb scoring continued as Allen made 83 and 99, sandwiching an 88 from Brecel, to leave the score at 5-5.

Early in the decider, world number 14 Brecel was faced with a tough safety, and decided attack was the best form of defence, lashing in a fabulous long red. That set up a break of 58 to give him control. Allen had an opportunity to counter and after potting one red, he clipped a thin cut on the brown into a centre pocket but was unlucky to see the cue ball glance off the green and into the opposite centre. That proved his only chance.

Last year, the same two players met in the first round and Brecel bizarrely took two cues into the arena, having lost his preferred cue a few months earlier and struggled to find a replacement.  “This has to be my best win because of the year I’ve had. Last year was so tough,” admitted the 23-year-old.

“There were even times where I was almost looking for another job, everything was going against me on and off the table. It was really tough mentally and to win today was incredible. I had cue issues, a shoulder issue and then players would play unbelievable against me. I’m not a negative person but it was unbelievable at times. Today was a game to shake all of that off.

“I was telling my family that I was confident to beat the top players again. It’s good for your belief because that’s what you need to beat these guys.”

For the first time, players were allowed to practise for ten minutes on the match table before the start. Brecel took up the option but Allen didn’t. “It helped me settle,” Brecel added. “When I got my chance in the first frame I made a good break. It helped.  Anytime I get a chance to do that I will do it. I’m surprised Mark didn’t.”

Allen said: “I’m very disappointed to lose. I definitely didn’t want to give my crown up as easily as I did in round one. But I’ve got no complaints. Luca played very well to beat me. I didn’t miss many pots but my long game wasn’t there today.

“I just hung in with some breaks and I just didn’t get a chance in the last.  His long potting was better than mine. Luca has shown he’s a top 16 player all day long. He’s been on a bad run but I think that’s behind him now because he played some very good stuff.”

Despite the disappointment, Mark Allen took time to sign goods and have photos taken with the fans. Every credit for that.

The second match of the day, was very different: it was rather scrappy and lacked fluency for most of it. John Higgins made only one break over 50, just. Ryan Day was by far the better scorer, but the last, and deciding, frame was the only one where he got in early and finished in one visit.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Ryan Day made a century in the deciding frame to beat John Higgins 6-5 in the first round of the Dafabet Masters – setting up a possible quarter-final with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Both matches on the opening day at Alexandra Palace went to a deciding frame, with Luca Brecel beating Mark Allen 6-5 earlier. And two of the top five seeds have crashed out early.

Scotland’s Higgins was making his 25th consecutive appearance in a tournament which has tended to bring him feast or famine over that quarter-century. He has won the title twice but has also suffered 13 first round exits.

Welshman Day has never been to the semi-finals of this event but he will make that breakthrough if he beats Ronnie O’Sullivan or Stuart Bingham on Thursday afternoon. Tickets for certain sessions still available – click here for details. 

World number four Higgins made a 25 clearance to take the opening frame then compiled a break of 65 to win the second. Day pulled one back then Higgins took the fourth on the colours to lead 3-1 at the interval.

Runs of 52, 111 and 83 saw Day win three in a row as he went 4-3 ahead. Higgins got the better of a scrappy eighth, but missed a crucial pink to a centre pocket at the end of a 35-minute ninth. Day slotted in the pink and black to lead 5-4. Back came Higgins with runs 49 and 28 of to set up the decider.

A cracking long red gave Day his chance and he showed his quality in a flawless 128 total clearance.

World number 13 Day, who won a trio of titles last season at the Riga Masters, Gibraltar Open and Romanian Masters, said: “It was great to finish the match with one hit like that in the deciding frame, and from 3-1 behind, I’m delighted to get the win. After the interval I had a burst of frames to get myself in front which was pretty good. It went a bit messy from there to 5-5 but it was a good way to finish.

“I have been playing with a sore arm and 20 minutes before the game today it was painful. But once the match started the adrenaline took over. I think it’s just ‘snooker shoulder’ – a bit of wear and tear.

“It would be massive to play Ronnie in a big tournament, a big arena. To pit myself against the greatest player would be something I’d look forward to. But he will have a tough game first against Stuart.”

Higgins said: “That’s twice he’s done that against me this year. At the Shanghai Masters it was 5-5, I broke off and Ryan knocked a long one in and cleared up. Every credit to him for doing that tonight under extreme pressure. It was the right result, he played a lot better than me tonight. I was pretty bad.”

Stephen Hendry – who was celebrating his 50th birthday yesterday – was in the BBC commentary box, and on twitter, showing incredible bias in favour of John Higgins, apparently saying something along the line “If they had to play ten frames in a row, any time, I would back John Higgins to win all ten”.  Ok, John has had a much more illustrious career than Ryan, and he’s Scottish, but still. I wish that commentator sometimes look at actual stats about the players. Since 2012, those two had played each other eight times (excluding CLS) and the head-to-head was 4-4 before yesterday’s match, they had four deciders and it was 2-2 also, Ryan winning the last one in Shanghai last September. I was expecting Ryan to win on current form and he did.

Anyway, happy belated birthday Stephen!

Other than that, BBC made this nice feature

And Ronnie was in the studio at the start of the evening, previewing John Higgins v Ryan Day. As always, he appeared to be a bit too much in awe of Higgins for my liking. But now, should Ronnie win this afternoon – which isn’t a gimme – he will not have to face him.

The Masters 2019 – a preview

Yesterday night saw Stuart Bingham win Group 4 of the 2019 Championship League Snooker, beating Mark Selby by 3-1 in the final. So now, the Masters 2019 IS the next tournament and here is (an attempt at) a preview.

Mark Allen v Luca Brecel

Mark Allen, the defending champion, will open proceedings against Luca Brecel, the youngest player in the field. On paper there is only one winner of this match: Mark Allen. Indeed Allen is currently at the top of the one year list, and by some margin as well: he’s more than £130000 ahead of Ronnie who is n°2. He’s also the winner of the last ranking event in 2018, the Scottish Open. Luca Brecel on the other hand has been struggling badly and for quite some time as well: Luca is currently 37th in the one year list and has not qualified for the German Masters 2019. BUT, Mark Allen has been talking a lot to the media – and to Worldsnooker – about how he’s going to handle the pressure and how he sees himself as the best ever player coming out of Northern Ireland. I’m not sure this is wise. Mark has history of collapsing badly at his home event, the Northern Ireland Open, when playing in front of friend and family with huge expectations on his shoulders. Being the defending champion is pressure enough, adding to it by boasting to the media might be unwise under the circumstances. Luca has played very well in patches in the CLS, his form is there, his confidence not so much. However, if Luca gets off to a good start and wins the first couple of frames, this match could take a turn to the unexpected. If not, Mark Allen will win by some margin, probably by 6-1 or 6-2.

John Higgins v Ryan Day

John Higgins has got a rather nightmarish season so far although he did make the final at the China Open 2018. But, otherwise it’s largely been a season to forget and John has often appeared dispirited and unmotivated. John’s record in the Masters isn’t that great either. He’s won it twice, and was runner-up twice, both times losing to Ronnie, but he’s also been beaten in the first round 12 times in 24 appearances. Ryan Day hasn’t had as good a season as the two previous ones either, he’s yet to go past the QF in this campaign but he did beat John Higgins in the Shanghai Masters 2018, and beat him in a decider as well. So this match is hard to call. Basically anything could happen. I’ll go for Ryan winning by 6-4.

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stuart Bingham

Stuart has just won Group 4 of the CLS 2019, beating Mark Selby in the final. This is the only match from this group that I watched and it’s hard to take any conclusions based on it. Stuart didn’t play particularly well there, except in the last frame. It was scrappy and he needed several chances to finish frames, often losing position when in. Mark Selby was maybe tired – apparently he had dominated the group convincingly – but, in the final at least, having won the first frame he appeared to play rather casually, taking some careless/risky shots. So it’s hard to know exactly what form Stuart is in. He’s always hard to beat though. It’s even more difficult to know in what kind of form Ronnie is: he hasn’t played since winning the UK Championship mis December 2018. But Ronnie loves the Masters, he’s won it seven times. He’s been in the final 9 times, and won it 6 times since 2004, in 14 participations. It’s his home tournament, he can go home between matches, it suits him to bits. I’ll go for Ronnie winning 6-4.

Ding Junhui v Jack Lisowski

Another one that’s hard to call. Ding hasn’t been convincing at all this season. He’s a young father, and his heart hasn’t really been in snooker, or at least that’s the impression he’s given most of the time when at the table. He’s even looked absolutely miserable at times. He’s lost matches he looked set to win. But, despite all this, there have been sparks of brilliance and his ability can’t be questioned. Jack on the other hand has been mega consistent over the last two seasons. He’s in great form having won Group 2 of the Championship League snooker only last week. He has however suffered some heavy defeats against the top players, especially in latter stages of tournaments, his 13-1 defeat to John Higgins at the Crucible probably the most spectacular of them. Jack isn’t quite at ease on the biggest scenes just yet, or so it seems. He’s the only debutant here and the crowds are always “lively”.  However Ding is likely to play an open game, which will suit Jack. Also – it might be only a detail – this match is scheduled on the Monday evening, at a time when most fans in China will be deep asleep and this maybe might affect Ding’s motivation negatively. Anyway, all considered, I’ll side with Jack Lisowski winning by 6-4.

Mark Willams v Neil Robertson

If Mark Williams is to be believed, he has been on a non-stop celebration mode since last May. This involved countless drinks, kebabs, holidays and getting in trouble in Dubai. It hasn’t stopped him from winning the World Open though and he’s fourth on the one year list. Plus, apparently, he’s been practicing for this event. Neil Robertson is fifth on the one year list, having also won an event this season already, the Riga Masters, and he too has been practicing. Last week he won Group 1 of the Championship League Snooker. One thing though is that Neil has lost three times this season to Mark Allen and once to Ronnie, so, maybe, he’s vulnerable against the very top players. Anyway, this is too close to call. I expect 6-5 either way.

Barry Hawkins v Shaun Murphy

Another difficult one to call, this time because both players have been struggling for results lately. Shaun has gone through difficult times privately early in the season, moving to Ireland, having a new baby daughter who suffered ill-health in her first weeks. He’s down to n° 31 in the one-year list. There were signs of improvement before Christmas, but he was still far from his best. Barry Hawkins is still ranked 13 in that list, mainly because he made it to the semi-finals in the World Open 2018, but that was back in August. He also made it to the final of the Shanghai Masters in September, but since it’s been a rather poor season for him. Again it’s too close to call. I expect 6-4 either way, after a rather scrappy long battle.

Judd Trump v Kyren Wilson

Two young players but very different styles. Judd Trump does have a good safety game, but is far more happy when playing an open game. Kyren Wilson is less of an extrovert, and a more cautious, methodical approach suits him best. Judd is in form, he’s the only player this season who beat Ronnie whilst he was playing well. However he has also lost matches that everyone expected him to win, and from being in front as well. More importantly maybe, their head-to-head – outside CLS – is heavily in favour of Kyren. Kyren has won 6 of their 9 encounters, including all four they played in 2018. Therefore I’ll go with Kyren Wilson winning by 6-4.

Mark Selby v Stephen Maguire

Mark Selby did win an event already this season, the China Championship, but otherwise it’s been a poor season by his standards. He has however shown some for in the Championship League Snooker Group 4 dominating the group, until the final where, having knocked in a nice 90 to win the first frame, he seemed to lose his way, taking some unexpectedly risky shots and losing all next three frames, having got countless opportunities in two of them. Maybe he was tired. Stephen Maguire on the other hand has got a reasonably good season by his standards, but he’s not won anything. Stephen on form is devastating, but he’s been guilty of impatience quite often through his career, and his temperament is … volatile. So, I really don’t know what to do with this one. I expect Mark Selby to care – it’s the Masters – and to try his hardest, which might involve the type of snooker likely to push Stephen Maguire over the edge: more balls on cushions than in open play, methodical pace, and generally awkward table. If that happens there is only one winner: Mark Selby by 6-3.

 

Ronnie: an interview and revisiting the Masters

The Masters 2019 is upon us, it starts on Sunday, and inevitably Ronnie is in the news. He’s won this tournament a record  seven times, over the last fifteen years, he’s made it to 9 finals, in fourteen participation and won it six times. So it’s no wonder that the press will want to speak to him in the build-up.

And now of course, having won the UK championship for the seventh time before Christmas, bringing his number of “Triple Crowns” to nineteen and having superseded Stephen Hendry’s tally in the process, he’s largely recognised as the greatest.

So here is an interview with de Daily Mail

‘I don’t think any player has ever got the better of me’: Ronnie O’Sullivan on being the best in the world, why he can play until he is 55, and his next trick

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan has had ‘no better feeling’ than being at the top of his game
  • The five-time world champion tells Sportsmail why he is so consistent
  • He has considered taking up hobbies including go-karting and Nordic skiing  
  • O’Sullivan will play Stuart Bingham in the first round of the Masters on Monday 

Ronnie O’Sullivan is usually his own harshest critic. But the tortured king of snooker seems less tormented nowadays, with the pursuit of perfection not as painful as it was.

It is refreshing to hear O’Sullivan, 43, who is normally quicker to praise his contemporaries, speak about those moments when he is at the top of his game.

‘It’s fantastic! There is no better feeling,’ he says. ‘I feel like I have an answer for anything that my opponent might bring to the table — whether that’s good safety, or good break-building, or good potting.

Ronnie O'Sullivan believes there is no better feeling than being at the top of his game

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes there is no better feeling than being at the top of his game

 

O'Sullivan has won five World Championships and seven UK Championships during his career

O’Sullivan has won five World Championships and seven UK Championships during his career

‘I just know that they have to continue doing what they’re good at to a very high level for a very long time to have a chance to beat me. And they might beat me. But I’ll be coming for you the next week.

‘And I’ll be coming for you the week after. So keep bringing your A game. At the end of their career most players will say, “Well, I didn’t really get the better of Ronnie”. And that’s all you can do as a sportsman.’

At 17, O’Sullivan saw off Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship, thanks to sublime talent and an infectious personality, and has dominated snooker for more than 25 years.

‘I’ve had to play different eras and players. Some players will come along for five years and everyone will be saying, “Oh they’re going to be great”. And then I’ll have to deal with them.

‘And then it will be another batch and then I’d have five years of them. And then another batch of players. Because they can’t sustain it. They can’t sustain it for 25 years.

‘I don’t think there’s any pro who has ever played in my era who can honestly say that they got the better of me, really,’ he says nonchalantly between sips of lemon and ginger tea.

So how has he done it? ‘You have to reinvent yourself sometimes,’ he continues. ‘You have to look round and say, “There are players out there doing stuff better than I am”. I want to try to get that into my game.’

O'Sullivan spoke to Sportsmail about his lengthy career and his success in the sport

O’Sullivan spoke to Sportsmail about his lengthy career and his success in the sport

 

Aged just 17, O’Sullivan defeated Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship

Aged just 17, O’Sullivan defeated Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship

O’Sullivan, who watched and learned as heroes such as Jimmy White, Steve Davis and Hendry became opponents, had a close eye on Mark Williams last year. Aged 43, the Welshman won his third World Championship in May, 15 years after his last Crucible victory.

Williams credited Steve Feeney’s SightRight stable with advances in his game and this was not lost on O’Sullivan, who joined the programme in July.

‘I noticed Mark had got more compact and that was a consequence of changing his alignment,’ says O’Sullivan. ‘I was always interested in someone who can compact everything that they can do. When I’m playing my best I feel compact and tight so I thought I would give it a go.

‘I knew I needed to do something. I didn’t want to carry on playing as I was last season.

‘It was like learning a new language. He gave me solidness, if you like. I’m not a better player. I don’t believe you can improve as a player. I think once you get to 21, 22 you’re as good as you’re ever going to be.

‘I’m just a different type of player. More consistent, if you like. Probably won’t have as many moments of brilliance because I won’t need to. I’ll just be solid — which is OK for me.’

O'Sullivan accepted that he was a solid player and that has helped him achieve success

O’Sullivan accepted that he was a solid player and that has helped him achieve success

 

O'Sullivan has won a record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments during his career

O’Sullivan has won a record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments during his career

O’Sullivan credits Ray Reardon with improving his safety game, and his union with psychiatrist Steve Peters helped challenge his mental demons. Away from the table, nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert changed his attitude to food, and artist Damien Hirst is a regular in his dressing room.

‘I’m lucky, I’ve got some good friends,’ he says. ‘And some great people who have become friends. My friends are people who want nothing from me — even with Steve Peters.

‘He wants nothing from me other than to see me do well. I kind of gravitate to those people and keep them in my life. I’m lucky to have them around.’

O'Sullivan is a keen runner and has changed his approach to his diet to prolong his career 
O’Sullivan is a keen runner and has changed his approach to his diet to prolong his career

 

O'Sullivan beat Mark Allen to claim his seventh UK Championship victory in York in December 

O’Sullivan beat Mark Allen to claim his seventh UK Championship victory in York in December

The wild nights out are long gone in favour of quiet nights in. O’Sullivan, who has written three fiction books and has his own cookery book published in May, is reading about Genghis Khan and is a Netflix aficionado.

He still runs (‘I can do a Parkrun — three miles — in about 20 minutes, which is all right, though it ain’t great.’)

But O’Sullivan, nimble of body and inquisitive of mind, is looking for new pastimes.

‘I’m going to go into karting,’ he says. ‘I’ve got my first testing after the Masters. They do four five-hour races. Three drivers.

‘You do the pole position — all that sort of thing. You start at eight in the morning and finish at five at night. So I thought, yeah that’ll do me. Once a month, something like that.

‘I want to start Nordic skiing as well. Cross-country skiing. I’ve always fancied that because it’s like running. I’ve got that running background. It doesn’t look like there’s much skill involved. I’m always looking for something to do.’

The West Midlands-born cueman has thought about taking up go-karting and Nordic skiing 
The West Midlands-born cueman has thought about taking up go-karting and Nordic skiing

 

He insists that he does not prepare for tournaments or opponents in a specific manner
He insists that he does not prepare for tournaments or opponents in a specific manner

O’Sullivan won the UK Championship last month, becoming the first player to win 19 Triple Crown events, overtaking Hendry in the process.

With the Masters — a tournament he has won seven times with three victories in the past five years — starting on Sunday, O’Sullivan faces 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham in the first round on Monday. How has he been preparing?

‘I don’t actually prepare for one tournament in a certain way. I just kind of play,’ he says.

‘I’m a bit like a boxer who is fit all year round. I wouldn’t be like a Ricky Hatton where I finish a fight and then don’t go near a gym for two months. I’d be back in the gym, training. That’s how I live my life as a snooker player.’

As his career progresses, O'Sullivan has taken on more commentary and analysis roles

As his career progresses, O’Sullivan has taken on more commentary and analysis roles

 

O'Sullivan's first match at the Masters will be against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham 

O’Sullivan’s first match at the Masters will be against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham

O’Sullivan will be analysing his competitors for Eurosport during the competition. He provides sharp insight and has learned a thing or two.

‘I’ve had to commentate on nine frames in a match,’ he says. ‘Wow! So you get to see a different game when you’re commentating from when you’re playing.’

And although he believes that his form over the past six or seven years has been something near his best, how long can he go on?

‘Whatever sport or business you’re in, you’re always looking around at your competitors,’ he says. ‘Is anyone doing anything better than you and can you learn from them? I don’t really see anybody tearing it up, really.

‘It’s kind of giving me a little more belief that I can play a bit longer than I thought I could. I think 50 would be the minimum. Competing and still winning tournaments.

‘Unless some really good players come up through the ranks, I could maybe go on until 55. So who knows? I’m never satisfied, I just want to be as good as I can be, if that makes sense.’

Ronnie has also been on twitter, yesterday and the day before for the first time this year. He’s considering doing some podcasts and pointed his fans to this video by Eurosport UK, recollecting some of his most remarkable moments at the Masters.

Looking forward to kicking off 2019 at the Masters next week 😃

And again… more snooker news.

As you know, I was at Goffs, in Ireland, last week-end for the World Seniors Irish Masters 2019. The tournament was won by Jimmy White who beat Rodney Goggins, a qualifier, by 4-1, in the final. It was a tremendous event in one of the most iconic venues ever to welcome snooker.

You can read everything about Jimmy’s win, and Rodney’s remarkable run here, on the World Seniors Tour blog. And there’s load of pictures as well!

Meanwhile, the Championship League Snooker continues, and it’s Judd Trump who won Group 3. All results and some footages are on Snooker.org as usual.

Quite remarkably, all groups have been won by “Grove” players so far: Neil Robertson, Jack Lisowski and Judd Trump. They are all managed by Django Fung.

Finally, I’m on the road again tomorrow, heading to Lincoln, for this:

JimmyExho11.01.2018

Tickets are still available, and the money raised will go to help disability snooker. So if you are in the area, come along and support. It will be fun and it’s for a good cause!