Eurosport continues their build-up to the 2020 World Championship with more “Ronnie Crucible memories”
Ronnie O’Sullivan: ‘People thought I was taking the mickey when I started playing left-handed’
Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he wished he began playing left-handed earlier in his career despite causing controversy at the Crucible due to his ambidextrous wizardry.
The five-times world champion lost 16-14 in the 1996 World Championship semi-finals to Peter Ebdon, but his campaign was overshadowed by a bust-up with Canada’s Alain Robidoux in the first round in Sheffield.
O’Sullivan completed a 10-3 win over Robidoux, who was furious when his 20-year-old opponent began playing shots with his left-handed having a constructed a 8-2 lead overnight.
The 1997 World Championship semi-finalist accused O’Sullivan of being “disrespectful” even though his left-handed play has become almost as reliable as his right-handed stance in the ensuing 24 years.
Robidoux continued playing in the ninth frame of the match despite trailing by 43 points with only the pink and black on the table. He refused to shake O’Sullivan’s hand at the end of their fiery encounter, but later apologised for misreading the situation.
“I wish I had started playing left-handed sooner,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “I was playing so poorly with my right hand that I should have switched. I knew that I could pot balls with my left hand. But I was aware that people might have thought I was taking the mickey.
“It just got to the point where I wish I had wished I had done it sooner because it was relaxing me. Alain didn’t take it too well. I could understand that at the time. But once I started, it soon became acceptable.
“I beat Peter Ebdon 6-1 in the semi-finals of the Premier League in Kettering a year later playing with my left hand. People quickly realised that I could play as well at times with my left as my right,” said O’Sullivan, who is seeded six for this year’s tournament which begins on Friday 31 July.
“I won seven frames against Stephen Hendry playing with my left hand in a 10-8 win in the final. And he was world champion at the time. It was unfortunate for Alain, but he apologised to me a couple of years later and said he didn’t realise I could play as well as with my left. I accepted his apology. And we were good friends after that.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan on his toughest ever opponents – ‘It was a golden era for snooker’
Ronnie O’Sullivan feels you have to go back 15 years to discover snooker’s true golden era despite rising standards and prize money in the sport.
The five-times world champion – who could win a record £555,000 for a sixth world title next month – pinpoints the season-ending rankings of 2004-2005 to get a true reading of green baize greatness.
In O’Sullivan’s opinion, that was as close to snooker utopia as you could wish to see with seven-times world champion Hendry still competing at the top level and Hunter – who tragically died in 2006 after battling cancer – lifting three Masters titles in the early part of the decade.
With Higgins yet to win another three world titles, Williams fresh from lifting the second of his three Crucible trophies and former Masters and UK champion Stevens competing in the second of two world finals, O’Sullivan believes that period should be celebrated as the halcyon days.
“I’ve always said that snooker enjoyed a golden era when Hendry, Higgins, Williams, Stevens, the great Paul Hunter and myself were battling it out. I truly believe that was the best top six ever,” said O’Sullivan.
“For me, getting through Hendry, Higgins and Williams in their prime was almost impossible. To beat two of them was so, so tough. Nobody has made me fight as tough as that trio in their prime. In some way, the players these days go for their shots a lot more.
“They are much more aggressive. They miss a few balls to let you in, and are less focused on safety. The games are much more enjoyable for me these days than years ago when you had several players you didn’t really like playing because you knew they could match you.
“A lot of the top players try to win frames at one visit. In some ways, those games are easier to play in. You either get taken out early, or you can feed of it to enjoy the battle.”
For thos who wonder about the numbers presented in the part I put in blue, here is the explanation: the World Champion will get £500 000 for his efforts, the highest break prize money will be £15 000 and there will be a £40 000 bonus for a 147, should there be one. Here is the link to the relevant WST annoucement.