Ronnie O’Sullivan’s string of five defeats in ranking event finals has been one of the unusual quirks of an already very unusual season, but the Rocket believes there is little he could have done to change that losing run, even if he had ‘tried his nuts off’ in every match.
Since winning his sixth World Championship title in August, O’Sullivan has made it to five more ranking finals, but has been beaten in all of them, losing out at the Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open, Welsh Open, Players Championship and Tour Championship.
The Rocket narrowly lost 9-8 to Jordan Brown in Wales and 9-7 to Judd Trump at the Northern Ireland Open, but was heavily beaten in the other three, thrashed by Mark Selby, John Higgins and Neil Robertson.
The 45-year-old admits that he has simply not played well enough against other men playing exceptionally well, it is as straightforward as that.
However, he does concede that in the three heavy defeats he may not have been exerting himself fully throughout, believing early on that those matches were out of his reach thanks to the deities of the baize.
‘I think two finals I played alright – the ones against Judd and against Jordan Brown – the other three I didn’t show up really,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk at the launch of his new partnership with ROKIT.
‘I just wasn’t playing well enough to beat that type of opposition who were playing very well.
‘I probably could have made them three matches a bit closer if I’d dug in a bit more but if it’s not there, it’s not there, I’m not going to kill myself.
‘I got beat 10-4, okay, I’d have got beat 10-7 or 10-8 if I’d really tried my nuts off. I’m not prepared to try my nuts off to get beat 10-8. I’d rather try, but if it ain’t there then it wasn’t meant to be.
‘The snooker gods sometimes already know the destiny of what’s going to happen, I’d rather just allow that to develop. If I find a bit of form, great, if I don’t then an early exit is fine. Especially when there’s another tournament in a couple of days.’
The Rocket does not feel like he was anywhere near his best throughout the Scottish Open, Players and Tour Championships, despite making it to the finals of all three, believing it has just been down to competing so regularly this season that he has been able to keep picking up results.
‘You get a good idea whether it’s going to be a good week or not, some weeks start off great and peter out a bit,’ he said. ‘Some don’t start off great but get stronger but I knew in Wales I was playing well, in Ireland I was playing well.
‘There was probably three or four tournaments this year I was playing well. The rest of them not so great. Still, because I was playing week-in-week-out I still managed to get to five finals just because I was busy, or as busy as all the other guys, which is rare.’
Five ranking finals in a season would be a phenomenal return for most players, but with 37 ranking titles to his name, does O’Sullivan regard this as a good season or not?
He says so, in fact it far exceeds the benchmark he feels he has to reach and suggests other players should meet too.
‘It’s alright,’ Ronnie said of his campaign. ‘I’ve always said, if you want to be on the main tour you’ve got to be looking at a minimum of three quarter-finals in a year.
‘If you can make three quarter-finals in a year you can justifiably say you’re a professional snooker player. If you can’t…
‘That doesn’t have to be three quarters, it could be a semi and a last 16 in there, or a final, whatever. As long as you’re averaging that sort of performance then you can justifiably say you deserve to be a professional.
‘If you’re not then you have to ask yourself what you’re doing. Are you there just because you like the lifestyle, like playing snooker, what is it?
‘For me, there’s a certain level I feel like I have to achieve to make it right with myself that I’m playing. Five finals has been great and I know that I was far from my best in the majority of them tournaments so it gives you hope that there’s still a few more titles in there at some point.’
That point could be the World Championship, where O’Sullivan will look to defend his title at the Crucible, starting on 17 April.
He knows that with no titles so far this season his form has not been good enough to win the big one again, but that does not mean the snooker gods won’t begin to smile on him again by the time he reaches South Yorkshire.
‘I’ll have to play better than I have done all season because Sheffield is a different tournament,’ he said. ‘Longer matches, often it’s not about being brilliant it’s about being steady and solid.
‘If I can find something in these next couple of weeks and carry that through to Sheffield then who knows? If I don’t then I’m not going to detract from having a good year, I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been good fun.’
The draw for the World Championship will be made on Thursday 15 April after qualifying is completed the day before.
O’Sullivan will begin his campaign at the Crucible on the opening day of the tournament, Saturday 17 April.
Overall a positive interview. I totally expect Ronnie to try his hardest in Sheffield this year but the days he sank into despair and depression over a poor performance seem to to over and it’s very well that way.
On a much lighter note he was also interviewed by Snookerbacker a few day ago
April 6, 2021
In Conversation with……Ronnie O’Sullivan
— snookerbacker @ 3:01 pm
The restraining order was lifted a few weeks ago so today I got a chance to catch up with snooker’s main man and current World Champion Ronnie, ahead of his title defence beginning. Amongst other things we talked about Liverpool and an urban myth, what it’s like to be a famous face, his thoughts ahead of Sheffield, his recent cue issues and who he’d invite to his ultimate dinner party…..
SB: Alright Ronnie, how’s tricks?
ROS: I’m fine mate, all good.
SB: Did you manage to catch the Hendry match against Jimmy last night?
ROS: I watched a little bit of it, I didn’t see it all as I was busy doing some bits and pieces.
SB: What do you think of the result? Do you think it will hurt Jimmy a bit?
ROS: Yeah, he just really still cares so much and wants to do well so he’ll definitely be hurt by that, but that’s just the way it goes isn’t it?
SB: What do you think about the whole Hendry thing? I suppose he retired in his early 40’s, a bit younger than you are now, can you ever see yourself retiring and then coming back for another try?
ROS: What, have 9 years off?
SB: Well maybe not that long.
ROS: No, I can’t see myself doing that, I’d hope after a couple of years out I’d have found something else to do so when I pack in it will be for good, but it’s his call and if he wants to do it then fair play to him.
SB: As you know I’m from the great city of Liverpool, now you’ve got a bit of an affinity with Liverpool haven’t you? How did that come about?
ROS: I just had a group of friends from Liverpool and I used to go up there and go out and I liked it so much I stayed there for a couple of years. I’ve got strong ties to Liverpool, it’s like a second home to me really. I used to play at George Scott’s Club on Derby Lane and George and Violet were so kind to me, amazing people who treated me like family, I had great times there, probably the happiest times of my life looking back.
SB: I played a frame with you there once, but I don’t really want to talk about that….
ROS: OK, I can’t remember that but I’m sure it was close.
SB: Yes, I’m happy with that. It was definitely close. Anyway, can you clear something up? This is either something I have made up, something someone else made up and became an urban myth or it’s true. When you lived here, did you stay above The Rocket pub?
ROS: Stay above it? No no, I think you must have made that up. I know where you mean, I stayed around there, around the corner but I didn’t stay above it.
SB: Well everyone here thinks it’s true anyway so that’s an exclusive.
ROS: Haha, well OK then it must be.
SB: Moving on to snooker. Sometimes when I speak to and hear snooker players talking I get the impression that they’d rather be something else, like a golfer or something, so what is it like being a snooker player? Do you enjoy it?
ROS: I enjoy the benefits of snooker, I get to travel, I get to stay in nice hotels, I get to see different friends on different weeks. The playing side of it, not so much, I like practice and I like exhibitions but I think sometimes tournaments get a bit too serious for me and I sometimes just want to have a bit of fun, I try to expose myself as little or as much as I feel like I need to in matches, but I suppose that’s the bit you have to put up with to enjoy the good side.
SB: Do you like being famous?
ROS: I’d rather not be famous, if you’d have asked me when I was 16 if I wanted to be famous I’d have said yes, but now at 45 I’d rather not be noticed when I go out and when that happens it’s quite a nice feeling.
SB: It’s quite ironic that you are one of the players that has adapted best to the crowdless situation given you are snooker’s biggest attraction. You seem to have found it quite easy to adapt to the silent surroundings, how have you done that?
ROS: I just think that the game doesn’t change, it’s like club practice conditions, like the football, it’s like a practice match. I know a couple have struggled a bit but it’s invariably the same people winning the tournaments as most other years.
SB: On the flip side we have Jordan Brown? Do you think he would have performed so well with a crowd?
ROS: I think Jordan would have won a tournament at some point as he’s always been a great player, it just all fell into place for him on that week, that can sometimes just happen. I don’t think you can say anyone won because of this or that, they won because they were the best player over that week of snooker.
SB: How do you feel about The Crucible being used as a COVID test event? Potentially 1000 people a day in there?
ROS: I don’t really care to be honest, I’m looking forward to the chance to run and explore different routes, see my friends there and a bit of al fresco dining coming into play, I’m looking forward to it actually, hope the weather is nice. If it’s anything like last year it should be a great time in Sheffield.
SB: How’s the cue?
ROS: Yeah, I’ve had some repair work done to it, John (Parris) and Paul have done a great job getting the cue back to virtually 95% of what it was so I’m happy with that, I also managed to find a good spare cue which is what I really wanted so that if something goes wrong with mine I can always use that as a substitute.
SB: Had you damaged it in some way? What was the problem?
ROS: Nah, it’s just that every ten years you need a good service on it, chop a bit off, add a bit on, change the balance, just a proper piece of work like an Formula One car where they feel the balance isn’t right. I was worried I’d not get it back to anywhere like how it was, but even at it’s worst it was playable, but with the improvements made to it now I’ve had a result really.
SB: OK, a couple of Twitter questions now, firstly from Alex, he wants to know what you would say to your 20 year old self if you had the chance to meet, errmm, you.
ROS: I’d tell him to educate himself, become wise and wordly, look outside the box and use any little advantage you can.
SB: Do you think you’d have listened?
ROS: Probably not!
SB: Last one, someone else asked for your ultimate four dinner party guests?
ROS: Ermm, Stephen Fry, Damien Hirst, Steve Peters and errmm Barry Hawkins.
SB: I had a tenner on Ali Carter. Oh well, Barry will be pleased anyway. Thanks for the chat Ronnie and best of luck in Sheffield.
ROS: No worries, take care and say hi to everyone in Liverpool.