Can Ronnie win another World title or two? Would Judd Trump beat Steve Davis?

Stephen Hendry was on Instagram, chatting with Alan McManus this time, and the question was raised, whether Ronnie can surpass Stephen’s record of 7 World Titles.

Here is Eurosport reporting on the two great Scots opinions

Hendry: O’Sullivan has ‘three or four more world titles in him’

Ronnie 2013 World Champion

Stephen Hendry is convinced Ronnie O’Sullivan can win “three or four more world titles” if he is determined to become snooker’s greatest Crucible champion.

The seven-times world champion Hendry insists O’Sullivan can still overtake him as the game’s most prolific winner despite celebrating the last of his five world victories in Sheffield seven years ago.

“If he wants to and his head is right, I think he can win another three or four world titles,” said Hendry during an Instagram chat with Alan McManus, who won the 1994 Masters with a 9-8 win over his fellow Scotsman.

McManus believes O’Sullivan, 44, has underachieved in his 28-year professional career despite drawing level with Hendry on 36 ranking event victories and becoming the first player to compile over 1000 career centuries.

“Probably (has underachieved). How many goes has he had at Sheffield? 27 goes or something. He’s won it five times which is good,” commented McManus.

“He looked like he was never being bothered properly until the early 2000s or something,” said Hendry.

He’ll always be a genius, but there seemed to be a time when he was suddenlythere to win.

McManus is slightly baffled by O’Sullivan’s recent comments regarding the length of the World Championship being too long for him and feels the Essex player should trust in the advice of sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.

“With me, I’m such an emotional player and person, to try and hold it down for 17 days, I’m beaten before I go there sometimes, it’s just not a great tournament for me. It’s like asking Usain Bolt to run the marathon. It’s just not suited to his genes or personality,” said O’Sullivan.

McManus is adamant the duration of the event should not be an issue.

“I think we can safely say, can he win another world title? The answer is yes, of course he can,” said McManus.

“I don’t know about this 17-day thing he talks about. The first week you are only playing one match. I think he needs to get tuned in properly.

That guy Steve Peters seems to help him whatever he does. I would get him in tow and just get on with it.

Hendry says O’Sullivan cannot be blamed for not enjoying the challenge of the World Championship.

“Ronnie admits that he isn’t really interested in being there for 17 days. You can’t argue with that. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel,” said Hendry.

McManus feels a dream final would be an O’Sullivan showdown with undisputed world number one and world champion Judd Trump if the postponed tournament goes ahead behind closed doors at the end of July.

“He’s capable of doing it. Whether he can be bothered putting the work in to be able to do it, I don’t know it,” said McManus.

“It would be good if he gets to play Judd in the final. It would actually be interesting to see Ronnie being the underdog.

“Judd is the top man now, let’s face it.”

Funnily enough, Neil Robertson, talking to Desmond Kane, had expressed a similar opinion just a week ago

Robertson: O’Sullivan can still equal Hendry’s world record haul

Neil Robertson - Ronnie O'Sullivan

Desmond KaneDesmond Kane

By Desmond Kane

Ronnie O’Sullivan can still reach Stephen Hendry’s record Crucible haul of seven if he wants it badly enough, according to 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.

Australia’s greatest player believes O’Sullivan – world champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 – has the ability to add to his total of five victories despite last winning snooker’s ultimate event seven years ago with an 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins.

Hendry’s Crucible record is arguably the last major one O’Sullivan has yet to topple having lifted seven Masters and seven UK titles, compiling over 1,000 centuries and joining Hendry on 36 career ranking event wins.

O’Sullivan last reached the world final when he lost 18-14 to Mark Selby in 2014, but has suffered several surprising defeats in recent times including a 10-8 defeat to amateur qualifier James Cahill in the first round a year ago, one of the biggest shocks of all time.

He has twice lost in the quarter-finals over the past five years being unseated by Stuart Bingham in 2015 – a year where he removed his shoes during a first-round win over Craig Steadman – and Ding Junhui in 2017.

There was also the infamous incident with Ali Carter in a second-round defeat in 2018 where both players bumped into each other at the table.

“Yeah for sure Ronnie could win seven. It all depends on his head,” Robertson told Eurosport. “Last year was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.

“Ever since he lost to Selby in the final, every year since has been really strange. He lost to Barry Hawkins (second round in 2016) which was an unbelievable match.

A lot is expected of him. Not so much from the crowd. He just seems to attract a lot more attention from people away from the table. Nothing bad or anything, it’s just he is the superstar of the game so he has to deal with a lot of that.

“He was quite open and honest about how he has approached this season. He has been quite attacking and playing to enjoy it rather than not really enjoying it at all.”

O’Sullivan has vowed to commit to a full schedule over the next two years. “I do think for the next two years I might just focus and play in every event I can possibly play in,” he said on Instagram. “Give it one last shot and see if I can get my game to a level where I’m confident of winning.”

O’Sullivan’s five-year Crucible record

  • 2019 Lost 10-8 James Cahill (first round)
  • 2018 Lost 13-9 Ali Carter (second round)
  • 2017 Lost 13-10 Ding Junhui (quarter-finals)
  • 2016 Lost 13-12 Barry Hawkins (second round)
  • 2015 Lost 13-9 Stuart Bingham (quarter-finals)

History suggests O’Sullivan will struggle to land even one more world title at the age of 44 at an event he admits he dislikes due to the elongated and exhaustive nature of it over 17 days in Sheffield. Six-times world champion Ray Reardon remains the oldest winner of the Crucible era aged 45 and 203 days in 1978.

This year’s rescheduled event is due to begin on July 31 and is likely to be played to behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic if it goes ahead. O’Sullivan is ranked 18 on the game’s one-year list. His last ranking event victory came in March 2019 when he beat Robertson 13-11 in the Tour Championship final in Llandudno.

Robertson feels O’Sullivan’s desire is the key to any future success.

“He has still played to a decent standard, but not really to the levels he reached over the previous two seasons when he won around 80 percent of all the tournaments he played in,” said Robertson.

“Which was an insane record. It all depends on what his mindset is, and what he wants out it. He has said he plans to give it a real good go.

“For the game, it would obviously be brilliant if he wants to compete again at most of the events. That would be fantastic even though it would lessen mine and everybody else’s chances of winning events including Ronnie’s too.

“It will be a fantastic challenge to see Ronnie playing more that we should all welcome.”

Desmond Kane

Well … personally, I would love to see Ronnie win ONE more. I would be delighted if he gets to six. Of course seven would be fantastic, but just one more would make me perfectly happy. Can he do it? I’m not sure. Does he still have the game? Definitely in my opinion. Does he have the desire? Probably. The real issue – in my view – is neither desire nor ability, it’s a combination of stress related to the expectations everyone puts on him, anxiety caused his own perception of the very high standard he is expected to deliver and the scars left by the 2014 defeat to Mark Selby. The latter are not to be underestimated. That defeat did hurt, very badly, and not just the defeat but the manner of it. Ronnie and Mark go along well nowadays, and there is huge respect between them, but the scars remain.

In my opinion, Ronnie’s best chance to win another World title would be to head to the Championship as an underdog, just like in 2012 and in 2013. In 2012 he had only just avoided to have to qualify after two terrible seasons, in 2013 he came as the World Champion but having just played one low key match all season, a match he had lost. If the focus and expectations are on other players, then he has a good chance to avoid the early rounds “banana skin” (*).  Once we get to the one table set-up, the whole atmosphere of the Championship changes. It’s no more a cramped venue made even more claustrophobic by the curtain in the middle. It’s a proper arena. It’s still a bear pit, but that doesn’t matter: so was Goffs in Ireland, and it was one of Ronnie’s favourite venues.

(*) I know that many fans think that Ronnie must be a confident player, considering how much he has won so far in his career. Nothing is further from the truth. He’s an anxious person. He’s been open about his depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. He’s learned to cope with that better than in the past, but it’s not gone, it never will, it’s part of the person he is. When he can get in the zone – only him and the table in a bubble – he’s incredibly strong under pressure, but when he can’t … he’s vulnerable.

Another World Championship related question was also debated between Stephen and Alan: what would happen if Judd Trump was to face Steve Davis in his prime?

Here is what Eurosport took from their conversation:

Generation game: Could Davis at his best topple Trump?

Judd Trump - Steve Davis

Stephen Hendry and Alan McManus agree that Steve Davis in his prime would have caused real problems for world champion and world number one Judd Trump with his superior tactical game.

Seven-times world champion Hendry believes Trump in top gear would win a world final “18-7 or 18-8” if the pair met at the peak of their powers, but added that his old rival’s “granite” safety game would give him a chance.

Three-times World Championship semi-finalist McManus points out that it would not be a foregone conclusion because of six-times world champion Davis’ ability to starve his opponents of chances.

“It’s tough. When you discuss different eras, you have to remember this: the day that Davis won his world titles, all the days between now and then hadn’t happened yet,” said 1994 Masters winner McManus on Instagram

“He didn’t know about Judd. He was playing the guy in the other chair.

“You’ve got to take that into account. I only played ‘The Nugget’ in the nineties, and I thought he was an unbelievable player.”

Trump produced the greatest performance in a world final with an 18-9 win over John Higgins in the 2019 final, a match that saw him make seven century breaks.

While Hendry feels Trump will carry snooker to a new level, he agreed with McManus that Davis – Crucible winner in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989 – was a fearsome competitor in his pomp.

“There was time when you wondered: ‘How could you beat him?’,” said Hendry.

“I think Judd is possibly going to take the game to a new level. Judd would probably beat him, but I’d be interested to see.

“Judd would probably beat him 18-7 or 18-8. Something like that.”

McManus recalled the UK Championship final in 1990 when Hendry edged Davis 16-15 in one of the sport’s all-time classic clashes at Preston’s Guild Hall.

“The famous UK final between you and him in 1990. I know how well you were playing. He was playing good, wasn’t he?,” said McManus.

“The other thing you have to say is that Judd would need to play well to win otherwise ‘The Nugget’ would get him.

“Davis was an unbelievable player. I played him in my first final (Asian Open in 1992) in Bangkok. I never missed a shot, I played awesome, one of the best matches I’ve ever played.

“He beat me 9-3 and I was over the moon with myself.”

This, in my opinion, is an impossible question to answer. For a start, the conditions were quite different, notably because of the heavier cloth. This made some shots easier to master (I’m thinking massés f.i.) whilst others were much more difficult (splitting the pack wide open f.i.). I think that Judd would struggle with those conditions, despite his tremendous cue power. He developed as a player on much faster tables and he plays a lot of shots that have balls traveling the full length of the table. It’s one of his strength and those shots might prove more difficult to get right on a slower table. Conversely, Steve Davis started playing on those slower tables and he may struggle for accuracy on the ultra-fast ones. Why am I writing this? Because players develop and hone their game in a certain context: the conditions available to them in their time. I’m not sure that Judd would play the type of game he plays now if he was born 30 years earlier, and Steve Davis might have become a different player too if he had been exposed to nowadays conditions in his prime. They are both supremely talented, and very fierce competitors, and that’s who they are, no matter when they were born, but how they developed as players would probably be different. I believe that, each playing at their prime level, Steve would beat Judd on the 80th conditions, whilst Judd would beat Steve playing on nowadays tables. But it’s a completely academic question.

At the time of writing I haven’t listened to the chat yet… probably more on that tomorrow then.

 

4 thoughts on “Can Ronnie win another World title or two? Would Judd Trump beat Steve Davis?

  1. Here’s something I wrote elsewhere a year ago, about the scars Ronnie carries from his 2014 WSC Final loss to Mark Selby:

    It isn’t “losing one final” per se that is the problem for Ronnie. The problem is that committing to the WSC for 17 days is a massive mental/emotional burden for Ronnie in a way that it isn’t for most other players. The cost of that burden can only be offset by actually winning the WSC: anything less than a win isn’t enough to make the experience worthwhile for him. Ronnie seems to want to avoid “investing a lot of time/energy/focus/etc. in the WSC only to walk away without the trophy” at all costs, and practically speaking, for Ronnie that has meant that he just loses in the early rounds in order to guarantee that he doesn’t lose in the final again.

    He only fully learned this about himself when he lost the final in 2014, because he had never lost a final before that. Ever since that loss, he has consistently said something like “It’s better to lose in the first round than to lose in the final”.

    To be clear, he would rather win the WSC than lose, but he would rather lose early than lose late. Going into the event, he would have to have very high confidence in his chances of winning in order to convince his brain that it’s worth trying his hardest…

    • That is true Mark, but part of the emotional burden, and I believe it’s a significant part, comes from the expectations put on him, as well as the constant focus of the media on everything he does or say. I would say that only Ding has an even greater burden, and I’m absolutely convinced that it’s the main reason why he hasn’t won the World Championship and why now, somehow, at only 33, looks like a spent force. I have been in the media room for 6 years in a row and seen it close-up. The journos (or rather their editors) want “stories” … at all cost. Be it by baiting players in saying things, by taking quotes out of context, or reporting only a small slightly controvertial bit in a lenghty press conference. And it’s easy to do. Players are interviewed right after the match, their emotions running very high. They have no time to think things over, they are raw. It considerably adds to the stress those players are under, and the ones who are emotional by nature, like Ronnie, are the more vulnerable. A World Championship behind closed doors, without media on site would be very weird, but it could actually help Ronnie.

      • I agree, Monique. I think Ronnie faces a different kind of pressure than any other player, by virtue of his status as the “face of snooker” and his (contested) position as the “greatest snooker player of all time”. Based on his talent, people (understandably) expect him to perform better at the WC more than he has. I can’t find it now, but in one of his interviews after losing to James Cahill last year he talked about how there’s no pressure on players like Cahill who have nothing to lose but lots of pressure on favorites like Ronnie, and how the media likes to stoke those fires and make a big deal out of it when players like Ronnie lose.

        To be fair, other sportspeople in history have faced similar pressures to those that Ronnie faces and have performed better under those pressures than Ronnie has. Some (like Hendry, Tiger Woods, etc.) have arguably THRIVED under those pressures, but (as we know) Ronnie doesn’t have the personality for that. (Which isn’t to say that he has a history of collapsing any time the pressure is on. Far from it).

        It’s understandable for people to think that Ronnie should have won more WCs based on his talent, but it’s also reasonable to think that he should have won fewer WCs based on his psychology/personality/anxiety/etc. From a snooker record book standpoint it’s too bad that he didn’t have a personality that was more conducive to winning, but from a human interest standpoint he has probably made a lot more fans with his actual personality than he would have made if he had had a personality more like Hendry’s…

      • True Mark. However, regarding Hendry thriving under pressure, that was true as long as he was young, dominant … and confident. After losing to Ken in 1997, things started to change, and by 2002/03 certainly it was a totally different story. I came to snooker around 2004/05 and I remember how I struggled to understand what people were saying about Hendry and how tough he was under pressure, because what I was seeing was a player who often started impressively but seemed to lose it as soon as a few bad shots crept in his game. Not every match, of course, but regularly enough. And, that, I have no doubt was a confidence related thing. The young Hendry who thrived under pressure – and he did, we can see that in the early 90th footages – was a young confident man with very little battle scars. Ronnie got a lot of mental scars, not necessarily battle scars, very early in life and it clearly affected him. I remember one discussion, with Phil Yates – it must have been in 2011 or 2012 at the Shootout- and Phil was saying that Ronnie is an underachiever. I told Phil that this might be the case based on talent only, but that, if you consider the whole picture – Ronnie’s battles with depression, addictions, anxiety as well as his complicated family context – what he had achieved was actually quite remarkable, and Phil actually agreed.

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