Ronnie spoke to Eurosport about who is currently at the top of the sport and where the “class of 92” now stands
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: ‘LIKE ROGER FEDERER AND RAFAEL NADAL’ – THE ROCKET ON THE ‘TWO DIVISIONS’ IN SNOOKER ELITE
“I would probably narrow it down into maybe two divisions now,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open. “I think you’d have to say Selby, Trump and possibly Robertson, you could say that they are the three strongest players. I think outside of that, then you put me, John Higgins and Mark Williams, just because of the age.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan Image credit: Eurosport
Ronnie O’Sullivan has claimed that there are two divisions at the top of snooker’s elite and identified the big-name players who fit in each category.
The 45-year-old, who has six world titles to his name, had himself in the second division, along with fellow legends John Higgins and Mark Williams, while he said Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson were in the top tier.
The Rocket compared himself, Higgins and Williams to tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in terms of still being able to compete at the top level despite no longer being in their prime years.
“I would probably narrow it down into maybe two divisions now,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open.
“I think you’d have to say Selby, Trump and possibly Robertson, you could say that they are the three strongest players. I think outside of that, then you put me, John Higgins and Mark Williams, just because of the age.
“Because at my age now, if I win a tournament, or at least put my heart and soul into it, it takes me three or four days just to sort of recover again to be able to go again. Whereas maybe seven, eight years ago I could win the World Championship and then wake up the next day and think, ‘I could do that again’.
“You know, and as you get older, you don’t have the powers of concentration or sustainability. So I think those three are in their prime and once you hit 43, 44 it gets a lot harder.
WE’VE KIND OF BEEN OKAY, BECAUSE WE CAME FROM THAT SPECIAL ERA WHERE, LIKE FEDERER AND NADAL, 70% IS STILL GOOD ENOUGH TO COMPETE.
“I think that is what is getting us by at the moment, but I don’t know how much longer that can go on for.
“So I think I would probably break that down into two divisions: Selby, Trump, Robertson – just because of their age, not because of their ability to play the game, but just that they’re able to concentrate and recover one match after another a lot better than say, me, Williams or Higgins would.”
O’Sullivan also had his say on the tournaments that really matter to him and made it abundantly clear that the World Championship remains the pinnacle and worth “five mediocre events” in his mind.
“The Triple Crowns, they are the three big tournaments, that is where the most pressure is. That is where the top players usually thrive and they never change, a bit like the Masters [golf], the four majors, you can always judge Jack Nicklaus with Tiger Woods because of the amount of majors.
JUDD WOULD SWAP – I KNOW HE WOULD SWAP – WITH SELBY BECAUSE THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IS THE ONE THAT EVERYBODY WANTS TO WIN.
There is of course a lot of truth in there… no matter what Judd Trump says.
Despite Ronnie’s perception that he is now in “second division”, Alan Mc Manus still rates him as the best player of all times.
Alan McManus names his top six snooker players of all time: ‘As far as the greatest, obviously Ronnie is’
Alan McManus feels that Ronnie O’Sullivan is ‘obviously’ the greatest snooker player of all time, but Stephen Hendry’s achievements should not be forgotten and they are unlikely to ever be repeated.
O’Sullivan is regularly named as the greatest player to ever pick up a cue, although there are still some votes from people in the sport for Hendry and John Higgins.
McManus is in the Rocket’s camp on this one, but is blown away by both his fellow Scots, who he feels come in at joint-second on his GOAT list.
‘Time’s a great healer of memory, people forget about Stephen and the things he did,’ McManus told the Talking Snooker podcast.
‘First of all, when’s the next time someone’s going to win the Masters at the first five goes? It’s easy to forget.
‘Who’s going to win the Crucible five times on the spin? Probably no one, it ain’t going to happen. But he did it and he did it because he was unbelievably good.
‘John’s a different kind of good, he’s got the whole package, technically he’s unbelievably good, but the other thing that John developed was the snooker brain, it’s like a chess Grand Master or a piano player, it just makes sense to him.
‘When you’ve got that technique and that bottle, there’s no weakness, he’s very difficult to handle.
‘As far as the greatest, obviously Ronnie is, I’d put Stephen and John almost shoulder-to-shoulder.’
Most ranking title wins
Ronnie O’Sullivan 37
Stephen Hendry 36
John Higgins 31
Steve Davis 28
Mark Williams 24
Judd Trump 22
Neil Robertson 20
Mark Selby 20
Ding Junhui 14
Angles was pretty clear on an O’Sullivan, Higgins and Hendry top three, and slotted in Steve Davis at number four fairly confidently, but struggled to split the two names he has battling for fifth spot.
‘For me…oo dear this is very difficult,’ said McManus on rounding off his top five. ‘I would say those three then Steve Davis has got to be in there, for many reasons I won’t go into.
‘Then probably Mark Selby and Mark Williams, one of those two.
‘Probably Mark Williams maybe, just because he’s been around longer but I don’t know. I’m sure that everyone of them are glad to be in the shake-up.’
By ranking titles, Williams beats Selby by 24-20, but the Englishman has picked up four World Championship titles to the Welshman’s four.
Selby has also picked up one more Masters title than the Welsh Potting Machine, but longevity, of course, goes to Williams.
The veteran won his first ranking title at the Welsh Open in 1996 and his most recent one in August this year at the British Open.
The Jester from Leicester achieved up his first ranking triumph 12 years after Williams’ first, with his most recent coming at the Crucible in May when he won a fourth world title.
I know someone who isn’t probably too happy because he’s not even in the conversation…
2 thoughts on “Ronnie’s big interview ahead of the 2021 English Open – Part 3”
The trouble with all these ‘GOAT’ debates is that there is rarely very much actual debate – everyone just chooses whatever criteria makes their guy come out on top. If snooker is allowed to develop to its potential, there will be objectively stronger players in the future than anyone on the current list.
Even now, players don’t have their own coach, and the coaching methods are still very experimental. In the future, this will progress much further, perhaps with data-driven determination of shot selection, video analysis of every wobble in a player’s cue-action. Cue technology and table technology will improve, resulting in a higher standard. A revolution in psychological training will make players much tougher and resilient under pressure, with more consistency. And of course future players will learn from the great players and build on their achievements.
So indeed, there could be a player who wins 10 World Championships, depending on opportunities. A count of ‘ranking titles’ depends on whether there are ‘ranking titles’ in the future, as opposed to different tournament structures. For me, it just shows a total lack of imagination to say something ‘can never happen again…’. I’m afraid it’s just a media ‘debate’ to attract readership and approval ratings, and is very much focused on the present and the past.
Sadly, all this historical emphasis might actually detract from the game’s progress, and snooker could dwindle away as a top-level sport. Do we really want to be saying to a talented 12-year old: “don’t bother son, you can never be as good as Ronnie O’Sullivan”?
I don’t think that question at the end is relevant because, obviously, the “best of all times” is always only “the best of all times so far”. Also I do believe that nobody will achieve Hendry’s dominance, because I do believe that we will never see again an era where the game will be closed and the gap between the top and the rest will be as big as it was at the start of the 90th. When those who entered when the game was opened in 1991 found their feet on the tour, they put an end to Hendry’s dominance and he wasn’t even 30 years old. For me Hendrys dominance definitely ended with his defeat to Doherty at the Crucible in 97. Also, Matt Andrews, who is a mental coach himself, commenting on this post, said that far too often young players nowadays tend to believe that they are better than they really are because that’s what they are told all the time. I agree with him. This is not just in snooker BTW, it’s a general trend in education nowadays. Yes, young people need to be supported and encouraged, but they also need to learn to comfront the truth about themselves when it’s not good enough and today’s trend is to “protect” them from that. Of course every generation builds on the achievements on the previous ones, and technology evolves. Records are beatable and beaten. Regarding the “psychological training” … I don’t really buy into that, but that’s another debate.
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