Of course, it can only go ahead if restrictions are lifted – at least partially – and if it’s safe. The main issue, in my view, remains the qualifiers, that need to happen earlier and involve a lot more players and officials.
Also, if travel restrictions are not lifted globally, players based outside the UK may find it difficult or even impossible to attend. That’s a serious issue because the World Championship qualifiers are essential for so many players when it comes to their tour survival and it would be completely unfair if they were unable to compete, by no fault of theirs, and lost their tour card as a result.
Interestingly, the Championship is due to start on a Friday and end on a Sunday. That is a very welcome change for a lot of fans around the world. WST stands for “World Snooker Tour”, and having the climax of the final of the biggest event of the season played on a Monday, meaning on a normal working day for everyone except the UK fans was just another example of the persistent UK centric view of the governing body of the sport. I hope this particular change in the schedule is there to stay and not just a “one-off” thing.
Eurosport delivered two interesting vodcasts.
Andy Goldstein spoke to Neil Robertson, about his career, video games addiction, and supporting a partner suffering mental health illness. Neil is truly a great, positive person and this chat is really worth listening to.
He also spoke to Ronnie about his best wins, lockdown life, 146s, and that streaker.
At the time of writing, the vodcast isn’t available on youtube yet, but here is the audio:
And here are some of the key points (source Eurosport)
Ronnie O’Sullivan on his best wins, lockdown life and that streaker
Ronnie O’Sullivan | Snooker | ESP Player Feature Image credit: Getty Images
Ronnie O’Sullivan joins us for the latest episode of the Snooker Vodcast to discuss, amongst other things, the matches that shaped his career.
O’SULLIVAN ON LOCKDOWN
It’s actually been alright really – it’s a bit tough for us at the moment because we haven’t actually got a kitchen so we’re just making do with what we can; we’ve got our doors getting delivered in five days and then hopefully our floors will be delivered in another three weeks, and then our kitchen another four/five weeks after that. So, it’s not ideal but it’s alright.
ON WINNING THE UK CHAMPIONSHIP AT 17
In some ways I wasn’t surprised [by winning it that young]
When I first turned pro I didn’t really know how good the top pros were. You only watch it on TV and sometimes you only get the highlights, and they only show you the best bits. I think my first real insight into playing someone like Stephen Hendry was the tournament before the UK Championship and that was in Dubai – and he beat me 6-2.
And basically the reason why I didn’t win or just get a bit closer was because I showed him too much respect. But he gave me chances, and I just didn’t take them. I think when I went into the next match I had a bit more belief that if I got those chances, there should be no reason why I couldn’t compete with him. Obviously, the pressure was all on Stephen and no one knew me at the time, so that also helped.
ON THE FEARLESSNESS OF YOUTH
It’s so much harder when you’re playing someone that’s younger than you because Stephen was the one to be shot at. So from that moment onwards [the UK Championship win], me, [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins were trying to just keeping coming at him and every time he beat us it only made us stronger, but every time we would beat him it would make him a bit weaker, you know? Like for me, now if I was to play someone like Higgins, it probably wouldn’t put as much of a dent in him [if I beat him], but for him to get beaten by a younger player, it would really like maybe put more of a dent in him. So, it was harder for Hendry than it was for me in many ways.
ON HIS FIRST MASTERS TITLE
I remember that I was lucky to get through the first round. I was playing John Parrott who was a bit of bogeyman for me, as the first seven times I’d played him he’d beaten me. So, every time I had to play him I just thought, he was the one guy I could never get near. He had a straight blue in the middle to beat me 5-4, but he missed it and I cleared up and then went on to win the tournament. And to play John Higgins, who is probably my biggest rival out of all of them, was fantastic.
WHY IT TOOK ‘SO LONG’ TO CLAIM WORLD TITLE AND THE RELIEF
Because I just started partying really. So, when the tournament season started, I kind of thought, it started in September and finished in May, so I had to kind of curb my drinking, my partying from September to May.
If I had a bad session I felt the sooner this is over, the sooner I can have some fun with my friends.
When it came off, it was the most unbelievable feeling. If you win it once, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win it again because you’ve got your name on the trophy. The monkey off your back is huge, it allows you to go and play and then it’s just a case of clocking up as many titles as you can get. I’m sure Judd [Trump] will go and win it a few more times [now he has won it once].
ON WINNING HIS FIFTH WORLD TITLE AFTER TAKING A YEAR OUT
never thought I’d win it [after the sabbatical], because I’d never won the World Championship back to back. However, when I got on the practice table I felt great immediately. But practise and matches are totally different and I had no match practise and you can only get that by playing matches. But I did feel that after each match [at the Crucible], parts of my game got stronger. And by the final I kind of hit my true, the highest point, you know, I was playing at a very, very high level. Come the final, I just went out there and played as aggressively as I could.
I think my three best victories were the 2012 World Champs, 2013 World Champs and I enjoyed the 2014 Masters when I beat Mark Selby in the final – to beat Selby as convincingly as I did shows that I must have been playing some really good stuff.
ON THAT FASTEST-EVER 147
I was a lot faster then, a lot younger, and played much more on instinct. I still play on instinct but that was youth and enthusiasm and all that sort of stuff. I probably know I wouldn’t be able to do that now because I’m a different player. It’s still one of the fantastic moments in snooker I suppose.
ON THE 146 AGAINST BARRY PINCHES
I was always going to get a 146 [against Barry Pinches]. Yeah, there was no way I was going to get a 147. No chance. I didn’t even need to go round the table [to complete the 147], I’d have just screwed it in with a little bit of side and been on the black. I think I’ve had three 146s now, which could have been maxes.
ON THE 140 AGAINST MARK KING AT THE 2010 WORLD OPEN
I knew it wasn’t a big prize [for a 147], but then I also knew that if I was to say there should be a bigger prize for a 147, you get people going, ‘Oh, you know, you’re ungrateful, you’re this, you’re that.’ So, I just thought, ‘What’s the best way to illuminate it? I thought, just go for the 147 and ask the ref what the prize is. Once he tells me it’s that, I go, ‘Oh, alright, I’ve made a 140, that’ll do’. It just makes it much more of an interesting talking point.
ON HIS 1000TH TON AND THE CROWD REACTION
It was a great moment; especially to do it at the Guild Hall where I won my first UK Championship. To win the title and then make the century in the last frame, against Neil Robertson, who’s a fantastic player, for me it was the perfect place to do it. Yeah, I was buzzing, the crowd were excited, and once they [started clapping] I didn’t know whether to carry on playing or let them carry on clapping so I kept potting the balls. It was a good moment.
THE STREAKER IN THE FINAL OF THE MASTERS IN ‘97 AGAINST DAVIS
It was quite bizarre really. The weird thing was, I was sitting opposite her, so I saw her taking her clothes off and I was thinking ‘what she’s doing now?’ And then she ran down and did a couple laps round the table – I think she was waiting for somebody to take her away, but no-one did. But yeah, it was quite funny.
ON HANDING HIS CUE OVER TO A SPECTATOR AT THE ENGLISH OPEN
You could just tell she was no threat and all the security guards come running out, and I thought, oh I hope they don’t grab her to the floor. So, I went, ‘Hold on, let her have a shot.’ So, I gave her a shot, she tried, she was happy, took her shot and off she went.
So, Ronnie admitted to having been naughty about the 146s … in protest against the dwarfing, then the disappearance, of the reward offered for a maximum. One can look at this in many ways, and argue that players are out there to entertain, which is true but only in part. They are there to win, first and foremost, and to earn a living. How they play, and the shot they chose to take is their decision and theirs only. Usually, going for a 147 involves taking risks at some point. It may not be worth it, even if the frame is safe: after all, there is a reward for the highest break, and the 146 – or less – might do the trick just as fine. For years, before the media became centuries obsessed, and before snooker was as reliant as it is today on the betting industry, Mark Williams was known for pushing balls safe as soon as he was confident that his opponent wouldn’t come back to the table. I can’t remember him being blamed for it back then. He was just eager to go on with the matches (*)
Update: the vodcast is now available although it’s “shorter” than the audio.
Also, WST looked back at Ding Junhui’s Crucible career and significance in the context of snooker in China. But I find those Crucible Golds a bit disappointing. To much emphasise on big breaks, and not much on the “stories” behind some matches, or “runs” in the championship.