Ronnie starts his 2020 UK Championship campaign tonight against Leo Fernandez. Leo is a very capable player, but has suffered a lot of injuries during recent years. It’s hard to predict what form he will show coming into the match
Ahead of the match, the ever excellent Phil Haigh spoke with Chris Henry about Ronnie’s future propect
Ronnie O’Sullivan can compete at the top of snooker for another decade, believes Chris Henry
There’s no reason why Ronnie O’Sullivan cannot compete at the very top of snooker for another decade, believes Chris Henry.
The Rocket won his sixth World Championship title this year at the age of 44, climbing back up to number two in the world rankings.
He turns 45 in December, which would traditionally be long past the age of a player challenging for the biggest prizes in the sport.
However, the world champion shows few signs of slowing down and is among the favourites to win the UK Championship over the next two weeks in Milton Keynes.
Henry, who coaches Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy among others, believes that if O’Sullivan continues to look after himself physically, as he has been doing, then he still has many years in the game.
The renowned coach has also worked with top golfers, including Lee Westwood and Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and it is an example from the world of golf that has convinced him the Rocket can continue to soar for a long time to come.
‘If these guys look after themselves…I was talking to Mark Selby about this the other day. I was in Holland a few years ago and I had about an hour with Tom Watson, talking about all kind of things,’ Henry told Metro.co.uk.
‘Look at what he did, he almost won the Open at 59! 59 years of age and he missed out by one shot [at the 2009 Open].
‘Snooker isn’t anywhere near as physical, you’ve got to be strong physically because it helps mentally, but if Tom Watson can do that at 59, there’s no reason why Ronnie O’Sullivan can’t be very competitive in his mid-50s.
‘Bernhard Langer, he was going round with [Rory] McIlroy at the Masters, he’s 63! Fantastic! If you look after yourself, and you’re still motivated to put the practice and work in, snooker and things like golf, there’s no reason you can’t go into your 50s and be competing.’
Not only does Henry feel O’Sullivan can keep going for another 10 or more years, but parts of his game will continue to improve with time and he may be even harder to beat than he is now.
Mentally the Rocket appears in as good a place with his game as ever and the safety and tactical side of his game is not far behind his incredible break-building.
‘I think as he gets older his temperament will get even better,’ Henry explained. ‘I think he’ll calm down a little more, I think he’ll stop taking it as serious and just go out and enjoy it a little bit more.
‘That’s when he’ll play his best, when he’s feeling relaxed.
‘He’s a brilliant safety player. He’s not just playing safe, he’s putting side spin on, he’s coming off two or three cushions, he’s always trying to get you in serious trouble, not just playing safe.
‘He plays a lot of safety shots completely like anyone else, he’s very clever.’
O’Sullivan has predicted similar longevity for himself in the past, saying at last year’s Scottish Open that he can see himself still competing at 55 years old.
‘I can probably do it till I’m about 55, to be honest with you,’ said O’Sullivan after a whitewash win over James Cahill.
‘I feel better now than when I did in my 20s and 30s so, for another 10 years I can’t see a reason why I can’t play like that.
‘Which is nice, I’m not going to be sat at home getting bored, at least I can go out and hit a few balls and enjoy myself. If I feel like I can continue to play like that, I don’t find the game difficult sometimes.’