Following Ronnie’s victory in Preston, and his history making 1000th century, the Daily Mail went to ask his friends how they see him. So here it is…
The remarkable Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the milestone of 1,000 century breaks with a thrilling 134 to retain the Players Championship in Preston on Sunday. In true O’Sullivan fashion, he even switched to left-handed to roll in the crucial red.
Next best in terms of tons is Stephen Hendry, who hit 775 during his illustrious career, proving that O’Sullivan, 43, is in a league of his own.
Sportsmail spoke to those who know him best to discover the secrets to his success…
(Six-time world champion and coach in 2004)
I had a bit of a calming effect on him. When he couldn’t pot all the balls I showed him there was another side to the game. It was a small department that was missing — he didn’t like playing that way.
Over the past 20 years he’s been top notch but he’s a bit better now. He’s got more systems within the system. He sees the game better than anybody, much better than I saw it. The balls open up and he’s so clever and in control of the cue ball. He’s a bit of a genius.
He’s the best player I’ve ever seen, when he’s there. Sometimes he’s there in person but his mind’s not on the game, but that’s Ronnie. The main thing is he’s happy. If you’re happy you can play better.
Former coach Ray Reardon says O’Sullivan is the best snooker player that he’s ever seen
PROFESSOR STEVE PETERS
Ronnie came to me eight years ago and we instantly formed a rapport. My job is to help people help themselves. It’s easy when you get someone like Ronnie as he’s so keen.
He’s worked very hard on the mental skills and continues to do so. It’s no different to the physical — it’s about keeping psychologically fit. Our emotions are usually the beliefs we hold. We make sure these are solid beliefs which are constructive.
We stay in touch regularly and he’s doing so well. I think what he’s developed in his own mind is that he’s absolutely driven and determined, but he’s more driven than he was. He’s learnt to gain perspective on things and not be as harsh on himself. We’re hoping he’ll play until he’s 50. That’s our aim.
(Artist and friend)
I was a Ronnie fan and when I met him six years ago we became mates. I guess I keep him calm.
I get to as many tournaments as I can and he comes to my Hammersmith studio to help me finish paintings. I give him a colour and say: ‘Put some here’. He’s my assistant.
Ronnie’s insane. I remember a first-to-nine against John Higgins. He was 8-3 down but said: ‘He twitched, I think I’ve got him’. He lost 9-8 but it was mad — what on earth gives you that feeling?
That’s why he’s exciting — because he’s instinctive. In art I aspire to that, but pain comes with it — he plays brilliantly or terribly and that’s the pain of genius. He wants to entertain. He often says: ‘I’d rather lose and play well than win and play s***.’
Ronnie’s biggest fear is not knowing when to quit. He has to be top of the game or he won’t be interested. He’s doing a good job selecting when he wants to play and because he’s winning he’s getting the ranking points, but not doing the leg work that everyone else is. He’s happier than I’ve ever seen him. I just want him to be happy.
Artist Damien Hirst says that his old friend’s biggest fear is not knowing when to quit
(Inventor of SightRight coaching)
We started working together this season. He wasn’t enjoying playing and I did a test that showed him he wasn’t sighting a straight line.
In practice we do around 12 long shots with his eyes shut. When I link him in on the correct line all he has to do is pull the trigger.
He’s incredibly focused, a perfectionist. He beats himself up but he’s learning to accept that he can’t do everything.
If we can help him become even greater and his long game becomes the best in the world, there’s a big problem for other players.
It’s a work in progress but if you saw him in practice you would go: ‘Wow!’ We’re so close, it’s exciting. Can he go for another five years? Without doubt — and that’s what he wants.
I started working with Ronnie in September 2017. His mood wasn’t great, he said he was struggling to get motivated and had lost his love for the game.
He couldn’t concentrate, had leg injuries from over-training and was gaining weight due to a high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet.
I stripped back his running and reintroduced carbohydrates for concentration and muscle recovery, and he lost two stones quickly. We cut down his portions, especially healthy fats — he ate three avocados a day.
He’s got a healthy routine now — porridge in the morning, snacks when he’s training and healthy alternatives for dinner. He is so organised, making up batches of spices and freezing them for curries he loves cooking with his kids. I’m so proud of him.
Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert is proud of the snooker star for sticking to his healthy routine
(Seven-time world champion)
I know what he’s thinking two or three shots in advance — it’s a snooker brain.
When he’s making a century break you look at the balls and see when he’s going to split the reds. It makes commentary very easy!
He’s become more of a percentage player. I hate that term because it doesn’t fit Ronnie.
He’s still aggressive, but because he’s so good he doesn’t need to take risks anymore.
He can wait it out and tie his opponent in knots, then he gets in and the frame’s over. When he’s on form it’s almost perfect snooker.
Former rival Stephen Hendry thinks O’Sullivan’s game is almost perfect when on form
(Friend and fellow Eurosport expert)
Occasionally you get sports people come along who have that something special — like Seve Ballesteros and Sugar Ray Leonard — and create that buzz when they play. Ronnie is one of those geniuses.
He’s threatened to quit but I think that is because he’s not a good traveller. He knows sometimes he has to go to China or wherever for ranking points and when he’s focused, no one has ever been more dedicated than Ronnie.
When he does the punditry in the Eurosport studio everybody listens to him, especially the players — Neil Robertson records it.
They want to hear his insight because he’s got such a different outlook on the game. That’s why he took it to a new level. His passion for it is second to none.
Jimmy White says O’Sullivan’s passion for the game of snooker is second to none
(Chairman of World Snooker)
I have known Ronnie since he was 12 and I hope that I am his friend. He’s as mad as a hatter but geniuses often are.
He causes me a few problems but I wish I had six players like him. He’s still my favourite and I’d put him above Davis, Hendry and Higgins. It’s that genius that gives him the inconsistency. He’s a one-off.
Sport needs personalities and Ronnie breaks all the rules — right-handed or left-handed, a five-and-a-half-minute 147. There’s never been anyone like him.
As much as I like to be in control you have to change your thinking with O’Sullivan because of what he brings to the table.
Quite often we will disagree. But Ronnie knows that I’m the best in the world at what I do and I am absolutely convinced that he’s the best in the world at what he does. So we have a marriage which may not be made in heaven, but it’s pretty damn close.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn says O’Sullivan is still his favourite player in the game