Neal Foulds and Michael Holt about Ronnie and the Crucible.

Neal Foulds and Stephen Hendry had a chat on Instagram a few days ago and one of the topics they discussed was Ronnie’s chances to win another World title.

This is Eurosport report on that conversation:

Did this defeat end O’Sullivan’s hopes of breaking Hendry world title record?

Ronnie O’Sullivan has never recovered from losing 18-14 to Mark Selby in the 2014 World Championship final, according to Neal Foulds.

Eurosport pundit Foulds feels O’Sullivan has failed to cope with the pressure of the sport’s key event after blowing a 10-5 lead against Selby when he looked certain to win a sixth world title six years ago – an outcome that would have left him one short of Stephen Hendry’s record Crucible haul.

The five-times champion has recently complained about the media demands of the game and concedes he does not enjoy the World Championship’s elongated format with a top-16 seed needing to win 71 frames over 17 days in Sheffield to claim the title.

The Essex player has twice reached the quarter-finals in 2015 and 2017, but has only won six matches at the venue in the past five years including a quite dreadful 10-8 defeat to amateur qualifier James Cahill in the first round a year ago when six-times winner Steve Davis accused him of taking liberties with the game.

Foulds feels O’Sullivan – champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 – could have “one more in him,” but is not overly confident that the 44-year-old is green baize icon is up to the challenge of coping with the Crucible.

“He can definitely win it, but the pressure seems to get him to these days,” said Foulds on Instagram.

“When he played James Cahill last year, he played some odd shots in that match in that opening session.

“It is like he’s not really relishing being back there.

“Winning it five times is not bad if you don’t like it. When he lost that final to Selby in 2014, he’s not been the same player since then.

“He’s not been back to the one-table set-up (of the semi-finals and final).”

O’Sullivan has not won a ranking event in the UK since picking up the Tour Championship in March 2019 and has dropped out of the world’s top 16 on the one-year list with his lack of commitment to tournament play catching up with him.

This year’s delayed event is due to start on Friday July 31 and is likely to be played behind closed doors due to the global health crisis with the final concluding on Sunday 16 August.

“If the World Championship had happened in April, he had his best chance for three years because the pressure in a strange way was off him I felt,” said former world number three Foulds.

“The fact that he had quite a bad season, he hadn’t done much at all.

“I think he might have one more in him because I still think he is..if he is not the best player, he is still in the top three.

“Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and one or two others, but he is up there.”

Hendry feels it is astonishing O’Sullivan has endured such a baffling barren run.

“I find it astounding someone as good as him has not won it for seven years,” said Hendry. “He obviously doesn’t like the long slog of it.”

There is absolutely no doubt that that defeat to Mark Selby did hurt badly and left scars. However far too much has been made from that defeat to James Cahill. For a start, it was clear that Ronnie wasn’t well during that match. Matt Huart reported that he clearly didn’t look his usual self during the post-match press conference. It later transpired that a combination of poor health and private issues had contributed to produce a poor performance. Next, James Cahill, sure enough, was an amateur, but he had been a pro for four years before, and, during that same season, as an amateur, at the UK championship, he had beaten Mark Selby in the first round. He also pushed Stephen Maguire to a decider in the next round at the Crucible.

Let’s remember that there are only 4 players every year who get to the one-table set-up at the Crucible. When Ronnie lost to Stuart Bingham and to Ding, he lost to the better player. He wasn’t playing badly at all himself, the other guy just played better. Bingham went on to lift the trophy, Ding narrowly lost to Mark Selby who was on his way to a third title in four years.

That said, Ronnie has made no secret of the fact that he doesn’t like the 17 days long event. He also doesn’t like the cramped space during the early rounds. There are always a lot of expectations on him, and demands from the media and sponsors. That does not help either. He’s probably got more of that than any other player and it’s been going on since he turned pro nearly 28 years ago. That’s a lot to cope with for anyone, nevermind a person with well documented mental health issues.

Michal Holt, speaking to Phil Haig, is expressing a totally different opinion to Neal Foulds:

Ronnie O’Sullivan can easily catch Judd Trump but he’s got to be all in, says Michael Holt

Phil HaighWednesday 27 May 2020

Can Ronnie O’Sullivan reclaim the snooker throne from Judd Trump? (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan can climb the mountain once again and once again be seen as the most dominant force in snooker, but he has to fully commit to the task, believes Michael Holt.

The Rocket was rising high at number one in the world rankings in April last year, heading into the World Championship as the favourite to win it with the bookmakers.

However, a first round exit to James Cahill and a failure to win a ranking event since has coincided with the remarkable rise of Judd Trump to the top of the sport.

The Bristolian won the World Championship and has picked up six ranking titles since, cementing his spot as the best player in the game right now, while Ronnie is reeling at number six in the world.

Holt, who triumphed in a ranking event himself this season at the Shoot Out, feels 44-year-old O’Sullivan can haul in his younger rival, but he must be fully dedicated to the tour again, physically and emotionally.

‘There are players that can challenge Judd, Neil [Robertson]’s doing his best to try and catch him,’ Holt told

‘If Ronnie wants to dedicate himself again, and not just playing but he’s got to be emotionally all in, then he could easily start catching Judd because he’s so amazing.

‘Ronnie’s strike rate for what he wins to what he enters…at one stage it’s like he was winning four out of five events he played. He was either winning it or losing in the final, everything he played in, he can do that again.’

O’Sullivan has been something of a part-time player in recent years, skipping multiple events on the WST calendar, which has possibly cost him success in the big events.

The five-time world champion has stated that he wants to return to a full-time schedule for the next two years, for one last crack at glory, and Holt believes this would be sensational news for the sport.

‘He has been retiring since he was 18,’ said the Hitman. ‘The first time I heard him say he was retiring, the year after he won the UK when he was 17, he lost and said he’s retiring. That was the first time I can remember him saying it.

‘Ever since, then he’s played snooker a lot, because to get that good you have to play a lot, don’t let anyone tell you different. But he’s talked about how much he hates it.

‘It’s a strange one because he’s got enough money to sit on a beach for the rest of his life with a Pina Colada.I think when he says he don’t love it, when you think about it logically, it’s not true.

‘It’s great news if he’s coming back full-time, it’ll be great if he plays.

‘Everybody wants to see, unless you’re playing him, a focused Ronnie O’Sullivan playing well because he’s unbelievable at the game, he’s incredible.

‘The way he’s changed his game and created the game he’s got is amazing. Anybody who plays the game can see that, and anyone who doesn’t play the game can. It’s good for the game, he’s box office.’

The Rocket is showing some renewed commitment by playing at the Championship League next week, behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, before he returns to the Crucible for the World Championship starting on 31 July.

Ronnie has won the big one five times but not since 2013, not going beyond the quarter-finals since losing the 2014 final to Mark Selby.

Holt believes the great pressure of the World Championship can wound even the greatest player, but is loathed to say the Rocket has failed on the biggest stage, given his successes there and the calibre of his opponents.

‘The thing about Sheffield is that it can be a leveller as far as everybody wants to win as much as they can want to win and everybody’s as nervous as they can be,’ Holt continued.

‘Sometimes you play Ronnie O’Sullivan in some tournament and it’s like he’s down the club. The World Championship is different because puts everyone under pressure and he might falter because the end of the day, as much as he doesn’t look it at times, he is a human being, he’s got emotions and feelings like the rest of us.

‘He’s still got a great record there, its not like he’s failed. And there’s some other great players around as well.

As amazing and brilliant as he is, he’s not guaranteed to win all the time. Sometimes when Ronnie O’Sullivan loses there’s a massive inquest: is he focused? Is he not trying? Which is ridiculous.

‘Maybe he just got beat by another great player, there’s some other brilliant players about who are really good and can beat anyone on their day.

‘Mark Selby beat him in the World Championship final and people said, ‘what happened there?’ What happened there was Mark Selby stood up to him and Ronnie went. End of story. He’s a human being and Mark’s an amazing player.

O’Sullivan’s unbelievable best sees him judged by standards that others are not, and while he might not have been at the peak of his power this season, Holt wouldn’t mind being in his shoes.

‘He’s still the greatest player there’s ever been,’ said Michael. ‘He’s done alright.

He’s a victim of his own success because the standard he can play at at times, you can’t see him losing, so when he does…he’s still doing alright, he’s still way above most people in the rankings.

Because he’s not winning all the big events people say he’s gone. I’d love to be that gone next year.’

This is a great assessment of  the reality behind being Ronnie O’Sullivan, and the weight of expectations he’s carrying for almost 30 years.

I have highlighted a few bits, that I find particularly relevant.

When the World Championship will start end July – if it does – Ronnie will not be a favourite and the media focus will be on Judd Trump. That might help Ronnie big time actually. Fewer expectations, less media attention, less pressure. We shall see. I’m not carried away. The first rounds will be difficult; they always are, especially for the seeds, and it’s impossible to predict how the very unusual circumstances will affect the players. Different individuals will react differently, and the players themselves have probably no idea how they will feel and how they will cope.