Reflecting on Ronnie’s future

The World Championship is over, and, from what transpired on social media, the new professional season will start mid-July. For once the players will have a decent summer break, which, I think, they all need because the last year has been very difficult for everyone.

For the first time in twenty-nine seasons as a pro, Ronnie has not won anything. He has reached five finals though, which is more that most pros do in their entire career. So, what’s next?

Here I have gathered a few articles that may help us to get an idea about what may be ahead.

During the championship, just before the John Higgins v Mark Williams last 16 match, Ronnie had explained how those two had inspired him:

World Snooker Championship 2021: ‘They’ve inspired me to keep playing’ – Ronnie O’Sullivan exclusive

John Higgins and Mark Williams meet for the fifth time at the World Championship in the last 16, an astonishing 22 years after they first collided at the Crucible in the 1999 semi-finals. The duo turned professional alongside world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan as part of the sport’s fabled Class of ’92. O’Sullivan explains why their ongoing success has inspired him to scrap any plans for retirement.

Snooker’s enduring Class of ‘92 graduated with honours at the Crucible Theatre over two decades ago, but the timeless triumvirate continue to display a true passion for life-long learning.

For Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, three masters in green baize geometry, every day is a school day.

If they (Higgins and Williams) see me doing well, they know I’m nothing special,” said O’Sullivan. “We’re all just human beings. They’re both fantastic snooker players, but none of us have got some superpower going on.

We’ve grew up together, we respect each other’s games, we know each other capabilities. I just think we feed off each other and get inspired by each other.

With 13 world titles between them over the past 29 years, and two over the past three years in Sheffield, the holy trinity of cue sports, an Englishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman, continue to thrive and survive at the elite echelons of the sport in quite inimitable style in their 40s. Still enjoying the golden view from the ridge when lesser cueists are over the hill.

They may share the same years as the 45th Crucible tournament they are chasing, but are hardly flagging with all three safely ensconced inside the world’s top 12, safer than a Higgins shot to nothing.

World number two O’Sullivan’s standing in the rankings is only bettered by Judd Trump, who is eyeing a staggering sixth triumph in the season of social distancing, but others covet the game’s crowning glory.

Williams and Higgins will collide at the Crucible over the best-of-25 frames on Friday (LIVE on Eurosport at 2:30pm) and Saturday in the last 16 for the fifth time since they turned professional in 1992.

All three had lifted their first world titles between 1998 and 2001, but their duels form the rich fabric of green baize folklore as much as the Bayeux Tapestry tells you of Norman conquest minus Mark Davis from Hastings.

Williams enjoyed victories over Higgins in the 1999 (17-10) and 2000 (17-15) semi-finals and the 2018 (18-16) final respectively with Higgins completing a memorable 17-14 win in the 2011 semi-finals on his passage to a fourth world title. Fittingly, they are level on 11 wins each in career ranking duels.

O’Sullivan made off with his first world title courtesy of an 18-14 victory over Higgins in the 2001 final, but has numerous memories of facing both men on the grandest stage, the most recent of which saw him complete a 13-10 success against Williams in the quarter-finals on his sojourn to a sixth world title last August.

My biggest two rivals have been Higgins and Williams,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “We’re very different. Me and Williams have got more of a shot-making style.

We make the game up as we go along while Higgins is more in the style of Steve Davis. Very robotic, tough to play against and can tie you up in knots.

It’s weird because John plays well against me, I play well against Williams, but he plays well against John.

It is almost like our styles contrast. If I could use Mark Williams’ style against John Higgins, I’d probably get a lot more success against him.

If Mark Williams could use John Higgins’ style against me it would be the same… it’s really funny how the dynamics work out, but all three of us have kept each other going in many ways. Whenever one has been down, they probably get inspired by the other one.

O’Sullivan revealed witnessing Williams end a 15-year wait to lift his third world title in 2018 with his epic win over Higgins, who had restored parity at 15-15 from 14-7 behind, inspired him to an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in last year’s final.

I know there have been times where I’ve sat there and thought: ‘They’re doing alright against the odds’,” confessed O’Sullivan.

When Williams won the world title in 2018, I sat back and thought: ‘He can do it so surely I can do it’. I think he’s a few months older than me so I think we all give each a bit of belief. I’m sure John and Mark feel the same way.”

Williams celebrated his 46th birthday by claiming the 23rd ranking event of his career at the inaugural WST Pro Series event last month before reaching the final of the Championship League a week later to leave himself mentally attuned for the Crucible.

A 10-4 win over qualifier Sam Craigie in the first round saw him secure another joust with Higgins, who won six straight frames from 7-4 behind in a 10-7 win over Tian Pengfei.

Williams has been fantastic to watch in the past few tournaments. I thought: ‘you are dusting these young guys up’,” commented O’Sullivan.

You are trashing them. The way Williams is playing at the moment, he’s a match for anyone because he’s enjoying it and a snooker player enjoying his snooker is a dangerous opponent.

He’s got great temperament, his potting ability is amazing and his break-building has improved a lot over the past two or three years. I’d say he is a much better all-round player than when he first came on the scene.

We all develop as pros. You start a bit rough round the edges and you develop. Your style improves because you have to adapt and reinvent yourself.

Higgins has done that recently by changing something. You are always doing that and you hope those changes can make you a better player.

That is what Mark has done. He can play any game. If you want to play safe: ‘yeah, if you want to score points, yeah, I’m cool with it..

You know when you to pick and choose your battles and just play in a philosophical way. I’m not sure John could do what Mark is doing because they are different styles of players.

Mark is playing with a tremendous amount of freedom, but I’m not sure that would work for John because he’s a different type of player. But if John gets in the groove and is enjoying his snooker, you don’t want to play him.

All being well, all three will celebrate 30 years at the summit next year with O’Sullivan conveying the message that diehards should enjoy them while they can.

Apart from Trump, O’Sullivan feels the field has not been sharp enough to bury the Class of ’92, who share the same moniker as Manchester United’s glorious era of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, with almost 2,500 centuries assembled on the baize .
He is still shocked Higgins lost 10-8 to Yan Bingtao in the Masters final in January. O’Sullivan ran in two centuries and a 97 in a 6-3 defeat to Higgins in the last eight with the Players champion totting up three centuries of his own.

It’s amazing to still be competing,” said O’Sullivan. “I just think we played in an era in the 1980s when snooker was so popular.

“You had no mobile phones back then so you had to focus and concentrate. You were surrounded by really fantastic players.

I just don’t think you will see that level of player coming through again.

You might see a good crop of players, and in-depth they’re quite good today, but I doubt you will see a John Higgins or Mark Williams type of player again.

Alright, we’ve got Judd Trump, but he’s the only one, but other than that you look down and there is nobody showing that type of snooker ability or snooker brain.

There’s just no one. Yeah, there are good players, but if Higgins or Williams play 80 percent of their game, there is still only Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and possibly Mark Selby who can beat them.

Anybody else won’t get near them. I know Bingtao beat Higgins in the Masters final, but if Higgins had played consistently steady throughout that final I have no doubt he’d have won that 10-6 or 10-5 because he is just a superior player.

It was perhaps Mark Twain, definitely not Mark ‘The Royal’ King, who was misquoted as suggesting excellence in billiards being the sign of a misspent youth. For the enduring Class of ’92, and those watching under face masks at the Crucible, it has been time well misspent.

Desmond Kane

Snooker’s enduring Class of ’92

Ronnie O’Sullivan (Eng) John Higgins (Sco) Mark Williams (Wal)
Born: 5 December 1975 Born: 18 May 1975 Born: 21 March 1975
World titles (6): 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2020 World titles (4): 1998, 2007, 2009, 2011 World titles (3): 2000, 2003, 2018
UK (7): 1993, 1997, 2001, 2007, 2014, 2017, 2018 UK (3): 1998, 2000, 2010 UK (2): 1999, 2002
Masters (7): 1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016, 2017 Masters (2): 1999, 2006 Masters (2): 1998, 2004

Speaking to Phil Haigh ahead of the secound round he explained that he does want to play but on his own terms.

Ronnie O’Sullivan: The only reason I don’t like snooker

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Ronnie O’Sullivan is envious of stars of other sports (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he has just one complaint with snooker, although it is a substantial one, as it is the lifestyle that goes with being a professional player.

The Rocket is at the World Snooker Championship this year trying to defend his title and lift the famous trophy for a record-equalling seventh time.

While the 45-year-old would enjoy that experience and still gets a kick out of playing the game, he remains at odds with much that being a professional entails.

The sport may have provided him with nearly £12m in prize money over his career, but O’Sullivan looks to other more glamorous endeavours and cannot help but feel a pang of jealousy.

Someone said to me, what is it with you and snooker?’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk. ‘The only reason I don’t like snooker is because of the lifestyle.

If I was a golfer, I’d love golf because the lifestyle is great. Beautiful courses, nice hotel, offered great food. It’s like Formula One, tennis…the sport becomes the least important part of the job.

I could quite happily not play snooker forever, I might miss it a bit but I’ve got a lot of things I can fill my time with. With snooker I just don’t enjoy the lifestyle of a snooker player.

Some of the places we play in now are a lot different from what we used to play in. It used to be more like golf in great venues every tournament, you used to enjoy going to the venue and the hospitality side of it.

Now you’re lucky to get a cup of tea or a sandwich from Marks’ so I don’t enjoy that lifestyle. I like good food, being in a nice place, that’s just me.

It’s not snooker I don’t like…it’s qualifiers in Barnsley and places like that. I’d much rather go do a qualifier at Augusta or Wimbledon, but I suppose that’s just the sport we’re in.

‘It’s a bit like darts, it’s not a high-end sport. You have to try and make it as comfortable and enjoyable as I can, good hotels, travel well. That’s why you don’t see me around the venue much or hang around with the snooker guys, they’re happy to have a burger and chips from the cafe, I’m not. I want to create a very good environment everywhere I go or I can’t do it.’

O’Sullivan has been especially down on the surroundings he has encountered this season as they have been almost exclusively limited to Milton Keynes during the pandemic.

The sport owes a debt to the Marshall Arena for brilliantly hosting the majority of tournaments over the last year, but the Rocket did not love the constant trips to Milton Keynes, despite choosing to play in nearly all of them.

Asked whether he would keep up his rigorous schedule next season if some kind of normality returns, O’Sullivan was clear.

No, I’d focus more on the China events, the bigger more prestigious events at this stage of my career,’ he said. ‘The opportunities suit me better out there really.

Certain places I’ve missed. Belfast is great, York is fantastic, China there’s some great places.

I could play virtually every tournament this year because the traveling was doable, it wasn’t an issue. If it goes back to what it was then obviously I’d have to make a call and just pick and choose the ones I do here but focus on China.

If they do all the China events in one go then I can do all the China events and do the majority in the UK as well. But if it goes back to what it was, going round the world four times in a month, I couldn’t do it at my age.

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O’Sullivan is back at the Crucible looking for a seventh world title (Picture: Getty Images)

I have to put my interests first, run my own operation and focus on what I have to do. Try and ignore what all the other players seem to do which is getting sucked up on the hamster wheel of going from event to event because they feel like they have to. I’d rather retain some control and me be the one deciding what I want to do.

O’Sullivan has found the ‘hamster wheel’ that he has embarked on this season give him an even more care-free attitude to his game than usual, consistently insisting that he is not fussed whether he wins or loses.

The way it is at the moment there’s literally a snooker game every day so I think it’s less important how you do, how you play, you just think, “I’ll just play.”’ O’Sullivan said.

Even if it goes back to normal, who cares? You win, great, if you don’t, brilliant, I’ve got another game in four days. You don’t really care if you win or lose, so it’s got its benefits I suppose.

We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, for every benefit there’s a drawback and every drawback there’s a benefit.

I have put some things in bold there. The first one is what Ronnie says about the venues. For nearly twenty years Ronnie never needed to qualify. During the “tobacco” years the “main” venues had great hospitality. Most players who were in the top 16 during those years have a certain level of nostalgia about that aspect of the sport. Those who weren’t in the elite though very rarely enjoyed those things. There was nothing glamorous about Norbeck Castle, nor about Pontins nor about playing in cublicles in front a a couple of people at best. Most of them never got on television. They were little known, almost invisible, especially outside the top 32.

And after Ronnie’s defeat in the last 16, Ken Doherty and Alan McManus discussed his chances to win further World tittles in coming years:

Will Ronnie O’Sullivan win the World Snooker Championship again? Ken Doherty and Alan McManus decide

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Ronnie O’Sullivan remains on six world titles after a second round exit this year (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan missed his chance to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven World Snooker Championship titles this year, but Alan McManus can see him doing so in future, while Ken Doherty fully expects him to.

The Rocket suffered a shock 13-12 defeat to Anthony McGill in the last 16, bringing about an early end to his title defence in Sheffield.

His victory at the Crucible last summer took his World Championship tally to six, level with Steve Davis but still one behind Hendry’s incredible effort of seven.

At 45-years-old, time is not on the Rocket’s side as he looks to match, or even better, Hendry’s achievement but no one is writing him off just yet.

1997 world champion Doherty says he never thought this would be Ronnie’s year, but is sure that he will have another Crucible triumph in the future.

I didn’t really fancy Ronnie O’Sullivan coming into this one,’ Doherty told Metro.co.uk. ‘He had some heavy defeats in finals this season and the last one to Neil Robertson was very convincing, it will have knocked his confidence.

Anyone can see their confidence knocked, it happens to everyone and it was a brilliant performance from Anthony McGill.

I do fancy him to win a seventh title, though. He’s got two or three years where he’ll have a really good chance and I think he’ll do it.

I think he deserves it, for what he’s given snooker over the years, no one would begrudge him winning a seventh world title, except Stephen Hendry, who definitely would.

McManus is not quite as convinced that O’Sullivan will claim another world title, but he certainly thinks he has every chance to do so in the next five years.

He can, I would never write off one of those guys, nah. Just too many times they come back and do it again,’ said McManus.

I did say earlier in the week before he played Anthony, that Anthony’s a contender to win this. He’s a guy that’s learning all the time and I did think that was…not a banana skin…but Ronnie was never winning that 13-6. To me, it was a close game written all over it and he’s come a cropper.

I think Ronnie plays his best stuff later in this tournament, early on he can be a little bit vulnerable maybe. I think of recent years losing to Stuart Bingham, Ali [Carter], [James] Cahill, incredible players but he needs to find his way to get deep into the draw. Then, because of the charisma and magnetism and everything that he’s got, once you get down to one table, that’s when all the magic can happen. Like it did last season against Mark Selby, even though there was no one in, 16-14 behind, it can happen because that’s what he is able to do.

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O’Sullivan lost a classic against McGill (Picture: Getty Images)

I don’t think he can stay on the horse for as long as other guys now, because of the way he plays, he likes to play that creative way, it’s a shorter span, and that’s the way he likes to play.

He’s not as drilled as some of the other guys, not as comfortable as some of the other guys to battle it out. But of course he can, he’s fit as a flea, absolutely got five more years at it.’

O’Sullivan regularly speaks of his passions outside of snooker, including his love of running and various business interests such as a pop-up shop in Sheffield’s Meadowhall.

McManus feels this outlook has helped him, keeps him content in the sport and boosts his chances of more success.

‘I had a chat with him a week ago in the practice room and he seems like he’s in a really good place in his life,’ said the former Masters champion. ‘I’ve often wondered about that, if he enjoys it and good on him.

What he’s doing with different things, his shop, picking and choosing events, it’s the right path for him. It suits him, he’s earned that right to jump off the treadmill and do what he wants.

He’ll be fine, he’ll still win tournaments, there’s no question. Probably next time he gets to a final it’ll be 9-1, because that’s what he does.

The Rocket himself fancies his chances, believing he has got five more years with a reasonable chance of success in Sheffield.

‘I have probably got another five years I suppose to go at the record,’ he said. ‘The way I look after myself, the way I play . . . I suppose I could get it right maybe one more time. It’s probably the only record I haven’t got, so I won’t be too hard on myself.

Can I still win here? Yeah, and I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t think so. I just need to pitch up and play. A bit like Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, they are probably not the best player now, probably don’t have the former desire. But they are still the one that everybody wants to see.

So there you have it … hopefully next season will be a good one.

2021 Crucible – The Day 11 story

No match concluded on the first day of the quarter-finals, but a bizarre and rather uncomfortable story emerged.

Indeed Reanne Evans, who works as a pundit for the BBC, was briefly asked to leave the studio – where she was doing her job – at the request of her ex-partner Mark Allen.

Snooker pundit Reanne Evans kicked out of the studio after her ex complained she was distracting him

Snooker pundit Reanne Evans, 35, (pictured) was told to leave the studio at the World Championships by BBC chiefs on April 20 after her ex, who was set to play, labelled her a distraction
Snooker pundit Reanne Evans, 35, (pictured) was told to leave the studio at the World Championships by BBC chiefs on April 20 after her ex, who was set to play, labelled her a distraction

A snooker pundit was told to leave the studio by BBC chiefs after her ex, who was set to play, labelled her a distraction.

Reanne Evans, 35, was set to join a live discussion at the World Championships before being hooked on April 20.

The BBC studio was next to the practice area, where her ex, Mark Allen, had been preparing for his upcoming match against China’s Lyu Haotian.

Presenter Radzi Chinyanganya and Evans, who is the women’s world snooker champion, were preparing for the start of the show when world no 13 Allen complained that Evans was a ‘distraction’.

After a discussion between World Snooker Tour officials and her producers, Evans agreed to leave.

The BBC said: ‘For the sake of ten minutes, Reanne left the players’ practice room so Mark Allen could practise before his match without distraction upon his request.’

The broadcaster also said that Evans’ broadcast commitments had not been affected by the incident.

Record 12-times women’s world champion Evans, who is currently battling Allen for maintenance for their 14-year-old daughter, was reported to have been ’embarrassed’.

Speaking about his plea for Evans to leave, Allen said that there had been several cases of other players asking officials for people to be removed while they were practising.

Allen (pictured) said afterwards that there had been several examples of other players requesting for people to leave while they were practising
Allen (pictured) said afterwards that there had been several examples of other players requesting for people to leave while they were practising

‘I’m not sure why there is a fuss about this one,’ he added.

MailOnline has approached the World Snooker Tour (WST) for comment.

Mark Allen was knocked out of the competition on Monday after being beaten by Mark Selby.

Following his defeat, Allen said he is planning on having ‘a bit of break’ from snooker in order to address some personal issues, the BBC reports.

Speaking after his defeat, Allen said: ‘There’s numerous things going on off the table which I’d rather not talk about.

‘I will come back but I can’t see me coming back any time soon.’

He added that it is difficult to compete against the best in the world without having a clear head to focus on his game.

Later Hector Nunns came on twitter to share his own views about the incident.

ReanneEvansKickedOutStory

Hector is asking the right questions there.

Whilst I’m sure that there were cases of people removed from the practice room because their behaviour was causing distraction, I doubt that it ever happened to a pundit in the nearby studio. For all we know she was doing her job and was not bothering anyone.

It was very likely World Snooker Tour’s decision but why? For me, they should have told Mark Allen to mind his own business and get on with it instead pandering to his whim. Would they have asked Steve Davis or John Parrott to leave if it had come into Mark’s mind that they are a “distraction” for whatever reason? I strongly doubt it. This is setting a dangerous precedent.

That said, it’s obvious that Mark Allen isn’t in good place at the moment. He has several private issues to sort out, and not just with Reanne. He needs time out of the game to sort them out, and sort himself out as well. I hope he gets the help he needs but I stand by the opinion that I expressed above: Reanne should have stayed and been allowed to do her job. If Mark wasn’t happy he had the choice to leave the practice room himself.

The class of 92 … Two interviews

No match was played to a finish yesterday at the Crucible… Nothing to report on day 9 then. I’ll take the ooportunity to share these two  interviews, both some days old.

Ronnie about the “Class of 92”

World Snooker Championship 2021: ‘They’ve inspired me to keep playing’ – Ronnie O’Sullivan exclusive

John Higgins and Mark Williams meet for the fifth time at the World Championship in the last 16, an astonishing 22 years after they first collided at the Crucible in the 1999 semi-finals. The duo turned professional alongside world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan as part of the sport’s fabled Class of ’92. O’Sullivan explains why their ongoing success has inspired him to scrap any plans for retirement.

Snooker’s enduring Class of ‘92 graduated with honours at the Crucible Theatre over two decades ago, but the timeless triumvirate continue to display a true passion for life-long learning.

For Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, three masters in green baize geometry, every day is a school day.

“If they (Higgins and Williams) see me doing well, they know I’m nothing special,” said O’Sullivan. “We’re all just human beings. They’re both fantastic snooker players, but none of us have got some superpower going on.

We’ve grew up together, we respect each other’s games, we know each other capabilities. I just think we feed off each other and get inspired by each other.

With 13 world titles between them over the past 29 years, and two over the past three years in Sheffield, the holy trinity of cue sports, an Englishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman, continue to thrive and survive at the elite echelons of the sport in quite inimitable style in their 40s. Still enjoying the golden view from the ridge when lesser cueists are over the hill.

They may share the same years as the 45th Crucible tournament they are chasing, but are hardly flagging with all three safely ensconced inside the world’s top 12, safer than a Higgins shot to nothing.

World number two O’Sullivan’s standing in the rankings is only bettered by Judd Trump, who is eyeing a staggering sixth triumph in the season of social distancing, but others covet the game’s crowning glory.

Williams and Higgins will collide at the Crucible over the best-of-25 frames on Friday (LIVE on Eurosport at 2:30pm) and Saturday in the last 16 for the fifth time since they turned professional in 1992.

All three had lifted their first world titles between 1998 and 2001, but their duels form the rich fabric of green baize folklore as much as the Bayeux Tapestry tells you of Norman conquest minus Mark Davis from Hastings.

Williams enjoyed victories over Higgins in the 1999 (17-10) and 2000 (17-15) semi-finals and the 2018 (18-16) final respectively with Higgins completing a memorable 17-14 win in the 2011 semi-finals on his passage to a fourth world title. Fittingly, they are level on 11 wins each in career ranking duels.

O’Sullivan made off with his first world title courtesy of an 18-14 victory over Higgins in the 2001 final, but has numerous memories of facing both men on the grandest stage, the most recent of which saw him complete a 13-10 success against Williams in the quarter-finals on his sojourn to a sixth world title last August.

My biggest two rivals have been Higgins and Williams,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “We’re very different. Me and Williams have got more of a shot-making style.

We make the game up as we go along while Higgins is more in the style of Steve Davis. Very robotic, tough to play against and can tie you up in knots.

It’s weird because John plays well against me, I play well against Williams, but he plays well against John.

It is almost like our styles contrast. If I could use Mark Williams’ style against John Higgins, I’d probably get a lot more success against him.

If Mark Williams could use John Higgins’ style against me it would be the same… it’s really funny how the dynamics work out, but all three of us have kept each other going in many ways. Whenever one has been down, they probably get inspired by the other one.

O’Sullivan revealed witnessing Williams end a 15-year wait to lift his third world title in 2018 with his epic win over Higgins, who had restored parity at 15-15 from 14-7 behind, inspired him to an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in last year’s final.

I know there have been times where I’ve sat there and thought: ‘They’re doing alright against the odds’,” confessed O’Sullivan.

When Williams won the world title in 2018, I sat back and thought: ‘He can do it so surely I can do it’. I think he’s a few months older than me so I think we all give each a bit of belief. I’m sure John and Mark feel the same way.”

Williams celebrated his 46th birthday by claiming the 23rd ranking event of his career at the inaugural WST Pro Series event last month before reaching the final of the Championship League a week later to leave himself mentally attuned for the Crucible.

A 10-4 win over qualifier Sam Craigie in the first round saw him secure another joust with Higgins, who won six straight frames from 7-4 behind in a 10-7 win over Tian Pengfei.

Williams has been fantastic to watch in the past few tournaments. I thought: ‘you are dusting these young guys up’,” commented O’Sullivan.

You are trashing them. The way Williams is playing at the moment, he’s a match for anyone because he’s enjoying it and a snooker player enjoying his snooker is a dangerous opponent.

He’s got great temperament, his potting ability is amazing and his break-building has improved a lot over the past two or three years. I’d say he is a much better all-round player than when he first came on the scene.

We all develop as pros. You start a bit rough round the edges and you develop. Your style improves because you have to adapt and reinvent yourself.

Higgins has done that recently by changing something. You are always doing that and you hope those changes can make you a better player.

That is what Mark has done. He can play any game. If you want to play safe: ‘yeah, if you want to score points, yeah, I’m cool with it..’

You know when you to pick and choose your battles and just play in a philosophical way. I’m not sure John could do what Mark is doing because they are different styles of players.

Mark is playing with a tremendous amount of freedom, but I’m not sure that would work for John because he’s a different type of player. But if John gets in the groove and is enjoying his snooker, you don’t want to play him.

All being well, all three will celebrate 30 years at the summit next year with O’Sullivan conveying the message that diehards should enjoy them while they can.

Apart from Trump, O’Sullivan feels the field has not been sharp enough to bury the Class of ’92, who share the same moniker as Manchester United’s glorious era of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, with almost 2,500 centuries assembled on the baize .
He is still shocked Higgins lost 10-8 to Yan Bingtao in the Masters final in January. O’Sullivan ran in two centuries and a 97 in a 6-3 defeat to Higgins in the last eight with the Players champion totting up three centuries of his own.
It’s amazing to still be competing,” said O’Sullivan. “I just think we played in an era in the 1980s when snooker was so popular.
You had no mobile phones back then so you had to focus and concentrate. You were surrounded by really fantastic players.
I just don’t think you will see that level of player coming through again.

You might see a good crop of players, and in-depth they’re quite good today, but I doubt you will see a John Higgins or Mark Williams type of player again.

Alright, we’ve got Judd Trump, but he’s the only one, but other than that you look down and there is nobody showing that type of snooker ability or snooker brain.

There’s just no one. Yeah, there are good players, but if Higgins or Williams play 80 percent of their game, there is still only Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and possibly Mark Selby who can beat them.

Anybody else won’t get near them. I know Bingtao beat Higgins in the Masters final, but if Higgins had played consistently steady throughout that final I have no doubt he’d have won that 10-6 or 10-5 because he is just a superior player.

It was perhaps Mark Twain, definitely not Mark ‘The Royal’ King, who was misquoted as suggesting excellence in billiards being the sign of a misspent youth. For the enduring Class of ’92, and those watching under face masks at the Crucible, it has been time well misspent.

Desmond Kane

Snooker’s enduring Class of ’92

Ronnie O’Sullivan (Eng) John Higgins (Sco) Mark Williams (Wal)
Born: 5 December 1975 Born: 18 May 1975 Born: 21 March 1975
World titles (6): 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2020 World titles (4): 1998, 2007, 2009, 2011 World titles (3): 2000, 2003, 2018
UK (7): 1993, 1997, 2001, 2007, 2014, 2017, 2018 UK (3): 1998, 2000, 2010 UK (2): 1999, 2002
Masters (7): 1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016, 2017 Masters (2): 1999, 2006 Masters (2): 1998, 2004

Willo about the “Class of 92”

Mark Williams looks back on 30-year John Higgins rivalry ahead of World Snooker Championship clash

World Snooker Championship - Day Sixteen
John Higgins and Mark Williams meet at the World Championship once again this year (Picture: Getty Images)

Mark Williams has looked back on his epic rivalry with John Higgins which dates back over 30 years ahead of their second round clash at the World Snooker Championship which starts on Friday.

Two members of the legendary Class of ’92, Williams and Higgins have been playing professionally for 29 years, but have been battling it out for even longer than that, going right back to their junior days.

They have gone on to win seven World Championship titles since then, with Higgins claiming four and Williams notching up his third in the epic 2018 final against his old foe from Scotland.

Some have labelled that final the greatest in Crucible history after Williams came away with an 18-16 victory after a fantastic tussle of the highest quality.

The Welsh Potting Machine described that final as the best match he’s ever been involved in, but he remembers the scraps with Higgins on the baize from 30 years prior.

‘I was playing in the juniors with Ronnie O’Sullivan, Chris Scanlon, Jonathan Saunders, all them people,’ explained Williams.

He [Higgins] wasn’t about then, he came a bit later, I’d sort of known him properly from the [1991] Mita World Masters, he beat me in the final of the juniors 6-1. He got £5,000 and I had £3,000.

I played him a week later in the British Under-16 final and I beat him 4-0, I had £300 and he had £150 so I was a week late really.

Since then I’ve been playing him almost all the time really, since qualifiers in Blackpool all the way through the juniors, qualifiers and the main tour. 30-odd years on we’re still playing which is unbelievable in any sport to keep that rivalry going so long.’

The levels of respect between the three superstars of the Class of 92 are immense, although Williams, Higgins and O’Sullivan are not close pals off the table.

The Welshman pays his old rivals the highest compliment, though, describing them as the top two players ever to play the game.

Not really,’ said Williams of a relationship with Higgins off the table. ‘I’ve got the utmost respect for him.

‘For me he’s the second best player in the world. Ronnie’s the best I’ve ever seen, he’s the second best I’ve ever seen.

‘I see him only at tournaments really, but as a rival we’ve been going for 30-odd years. Every time we play it’s a special occasion. We’re not getting any younger, we don’t know how many times we’re going to keep meeting but it’s fantastic.

‘Playing again on Friday over three sessions, if you can’t get up for that you shouldn’t be playing the game.’

Mark Williams
Mark Williams won the WST Pro Series last month (Picture: WST)

The longevity of the rivalry between the Class of ’92 makes any meeting between the three of them a special occasion and Williams says it is only Higgins and O’Sullivan he can really still class as genuine rivals in the sport.

Them two have got to be my rivals,’ said the 46-year-old. ‘People like [Judd] Trump, [Neil] Robertson, [Shaun] Murphy are too young to be my rivals, the only rivals I’ve got that are still going are Ronnie and John Higgins.

The other ones are too young. I try and beat them but I can’t really class them as rivals. It’s us three for a long, long time, and we’re still going.

Williams is not just in this last 16 clash for the nostalgia value, he is in fine form and a genuine threat for the title come 3 May, as is Higgins.

The three-time world champ is playing at quite a pace, despite his advancing years, and after his 10-4 win over Sam Craigie in round one he became officially the quickest player on tour this season, playing at just 18.06 seconds-per-shot.

China Snooker Open
Higgins and Williams have battled all over the world over the last three decades (Picture: Getty Images)

He’s enjoying himself and can’t wait to take his free and easy style into yet another meeting with the Wizard of Wishaw.

I’m playing the most care-free snooker since I won the Grand Slam 20 years ago,’ said Williams. ‘If I see it I’m going for it. I’m leaving them plum in if I miss it but I don’t care. The worst thing is you lose.

I’m just looking forward to it, it’s going to be excellent, love every minute of it. Hopefully get to 13 before him. If I do, great, if I don’t I’ll wish him all the best and off I go on my merry way to find a golf course somewhere.

I’m as confident as I can be, I suppose. The last match we played here was the best match I’ve ever been involved in standard-wise over 30-odd frames.

The atmosphere was electric, something I may never get that experience again, it was unbelievable, but it’s a different day, different year, we lock horns again.

Ronnie’s interview with the sponsor

The arena must be nearly ready by now

And the defending champion was interviewed by the sponsor

Ronnie O’Sullivan Claims He Could Have Won Ten World Titles Ahead Of Championship

The 45-year-old spoke candidly to Betfred ahead of the tournament

Six-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he could have won 10 titles and revealed he has a somewhat ‘love/hate’ relationship with snooker.
Speaking candidly to Betfred Sport ahead of this week’s World Snooker Championship where he will be competing to defend his crown, the 45-year-old claimed he ‘wasted’ a decade of career and should have claimed more success.

“My game’s never great to be honest with you,” he told Betfred in the build-up. “I’m never satisfied but I suppose that’s just the nature of the beast sometimes, you’re always looking to squeeze a bit more out but in general it’s been an ok season. I’ve enjoyed it and done it on my terms so it’s felt good.

“When I look back, I think I could have probably won ten (titles) if I had found a little bit of consistency or hadn’t wasted seven, eight, nine, ten years of my career but nothing is ever plain sailing. Sometimes I was happy to get one at one point so to get six, I’m pretty comfortable with that achievement.
“I might not win it this year, could possibly win it the year after but as long as I’m enjoying playing you’ve always got a chance I suppose. It’s a tournament at the end of the day, you’ve just got to try and get it right over this little period.

Twenty years on from his first triumph in 2001, a victory at the Crucible this time around would see him match record winner Stephen Hendry with seven wins.

Asked if Hendry’s tally is something he is targeting, he insisted, “No, it’s not driven by that at all, really. I come here, it gets me out the house, I enjoy travelling, the lifestyle, playing. If I lose the first round and I’m playing well, I’ll be disappointed. If I lose the first round and I’m not playing so well, I’ll be thinking ‘sweet touch’ because it’s a long time to struggle at this tournament.

“If things go well, it’s fantastic. If they don’t, I’m not the kind of player to want to grind out any event. As the tournament progresses, I sort of get a feeling for what will happen and try and judge it as well as you can.”

Another victory would put The Rocket in the record books but ahead of the championship, he is clearly in relaxed mood and insists he is more concerned with playing well and enjoying the game as opposed to obsessing over titles.

“I’ve always said that as long as my lifestyle’s great I don’t mind doing anything – if someone said you’ve got to paint walls for a living, as long as the life’s good, I’ll do it but if the lifestyle’s not great, it doesn’t matter how much I love something, I’m not going to want to do it.”

Speaking of being a champion, he revealed he doesn’t get too excited by his success and admitted, “I wish it meant more to me in many ways. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it and sometimes just playing is an achievement in itself.

“It’s not an easy sport, snooker, and sometimes you go through a lot of highs and a lot of lows and in the end you just go ‘I don’t want any more highs’ but then you can’t have the lows. You kind of neutral out and (you think) you know what, I’ll just stay in the middle which is a little bit easier to live with in many ways.

The action starts in bit more than four hours…

2021 Crucible Build-up – Hector Nunns about Ronnie and his status in the game

This was shared by WST this afternoon

Can The Rocket Reach Seventh Heaven?

A seventh world title for Ronnie O’Sullivan is likely to also see him hailed as the greatest ever.

By Hector Nunns

Is this the year to hail the undisputed greatest snooker player of all time? That is the question on the minds of many snooker fans ahead of this year’s Betfred World Championship, if not so much for defending champion and reluctant hero Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Ronnie aimingThe Rocket claimed a sixth world title at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in August beating Kyren Wilson in the final, leaving him just one short of Stephen Hendry’s record seven triumphs in the 17-day marathon of mind and body on snooker’s most iconic stage.

The current world number two, O’Sullivan has been at pains to stress that his form this season has been “mediocre”. There have been moments and flashes of brilliance, and those have helped take him to five ranking tournament finals.

Unusually for O’Sullivan, with a 70 per cent win rate in such showpieces at the beginning of the campaign, he has lost all of them. He even openly questioned whether his hunger and killer instinct were as keen given a more laid-back approach to life and the game these days.

And he has certainly been playing down any questions about equalling Hendry’s most cherished record, having already overtaken him on ranking titles (37), the major tournaments also including the Masters and UK Championship (20), 147 maximum breaks (15) and centuries (1,102).

O’Sullivan, who has had lots to say about many other issues in the build-up to this year’s World Championship, said: “I suppose winning a seventh world title is now a real possibility. But I will be happy if I don’t embarrass myself.

“I would never want to go to the Crucible and have an absolute stinker. That is my starting point. And then if I can win a couple of matches, then great. You just don’t want to make a fool of yourself.

Crucible 2020 Final HandshakeFormer world champion Ken Doherty is clear on the issue. He said: “It would befit Ronnie’s career if he did win a seventh to equal Stephen Hendry. Whenever the question is posed out there ‘who is the greatest?’, many would already say it is Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“But that world title tally is always there, Stephen has the most. Ronnie knows that, it is always raised. It would be the cherry on the cake of his other achievements, and then for me he would be the undisputed best of all time.”

Legend Hendry, now 52 and having made a comeback this season after nine years in retirement, was brutally honest about the prospect of seeing his record matched. He said: “I am not going to lie, I would be disappointed if Ronnie equalled that record.

“So I’m not going sit there and think ‘Oh no, it doesn’t matter’, because it does matter – it is a record I hold very proudly. If he equals it, fair play to him, and you could only say that’s an incredible achievement. He is a phenomenal snooker player, and sportsman. Is there anyone else as talented at their sport? But I’m certainly not going to lie and say that I would be over the moon about it!”

O’Sullivan has spoken this week about time spent relaxing with his artist friend Damien Hirst, revealing: “We get together, mix a few paints up, get the old stirring pot out, put it all on a canvas. I love painting with him, it’s very therapeutic.”

There has been a minor cue crisis in the build-up to the blue-riband event, though that looks to have been solved with emergency repairs by John Parris. And O’Sullivan will be replicating last year’s successful routine before and after matches while he remains in the draw – heading out to the west of Sheffield and running to the edge of the nearby Peak District.

O’Sullivan, back up to around 35-40 miles a week after recovering from injury, said: “There are some great routes and it’s nice to be doing some different ones. We go up to Endlcliffe Park, and keep going until we get to the Peaks and then come back again.”

ros-action-CrucbleIt looks an open tournament, and the betting reflects that. Sponsors Betfred have world number one Judd Trump as favourite at 7/2 for a second world title, and O’Sullivan at 5-1. However Neil Robertson (also 5-1), Mark Selby (13-2) and John Higgins (10-1) all have strong claims.

Some shrewdies believe Kyren Wilson will one day lift the trophy, and Yan Bingtao, who won the Masters in January, has one more chance to  take another of Hendry’s records by a single month – that of being the youngest ever world champion. Hendry was 21 when his era of dominance began in 1990.

But all eyes on opening day will be, as they usually are, on O’Sullivan – a spotlight he has had to cope with as the sport’s box office king for three decades. His half of the limited capacity arena is sold out, and they along with millions of TV viewers will be looking for the Rocket to run through a repertoire that has brought him success and adulation in equal measure.

Good luck Ronnie!

2021 Crucible Build-up – Ronnie about the class of 92 and the state of the amateur game

Ronnie reckons that there will never be aything like the “Class of 92” again 

Ronnie O’Sullivan: There will never be another three who can play like me, Higgins and Williams

‘We come from an era where you became a proper snooker player,’ said the Rocket ahead of the weekend’s World Championship

Welsh Open 2020 - Day 6 -
O’Sullivan says he is one of a dying breed of players (Photo: Getty)

Ronnie O’Sullivan may no longer consider himself at the very peak of his snooker powers but says recent successes mean no one should question his ability to keep winning until he turns 50.

O’Sullivan defeated Kyren Wilson in the final last August to win his sixth World Championship and heads to the Crucible Theatre this month to not only defend his crown but also to match Stephen Hendry’s modern-era record of seven world titles.

That 2020 World Championship triumph is O’Sullivan’s only ranking-event victory in the past two seasons but reaching five finals this campaign doesn’t suggest any sort of impending snooker mortality.

As he approaches 30 years since first turning professional, the 45-year-old – along with fellow ‘Class of 92’ members Mark Williams and John Higgins – has maintained a remarkable level of play well into his 40s.

In fact, at least one of the trio has appeared in all but two of the past 10 World Championship finals – and in each of the last four – with O’Sullivan insisting that record proves they can all keep competing past their 50th birthday.

There will never again be three players who can play the game like me, John and Mark do, playing into their late 40s, early 50s and still winning tournaments,” said O’Sullivan, who is a regular contributor to Eurosport on all their snooker coverage.

We come from an era where you became a proper snooker player. That experience and level of game at amateur level has allowed us to play way beyond what others have. Mid 40s, still winning tournaments and you shouldn’t have to ask the question of if we’re good enough any more until we hit 50.

Williams won the world title two years ago, I did it last year, Higgins has made lot of world finals recently and then won a big tournament [the Players Championship] this year.

“Just off the back of that, you’ve got to give yourself another five years. Even if you have a down season, you’re not likely to be losing that sort of form within one or two years.

O’Sullivan’s 2021 World Championship campaign begins on Saturday morning, with the final concluding on 3 May – a 17-day marathon that The Rocket admits doesn’t suit his personality.

Despite his remarkable success at the Crucible, he claims he has never enjoyed the tournament – struggling with boredom and a lack of focus at the event.

And that may explain why matching Hendry’s record of seven world titles isn’t as burning a desire as you might think for such a fierce competitor.

I don’t think I need to win anything else to cement my legacy,” he said. “I never thought I’d win one world title, so I’m certainly not going to complain if I don’t get to seven. I’m over the moon with what I’ve achieved.

I just want to go there and enjoy my snooker and I need to play well to enjoy it.

“I’ve accepted that about myself – I only want to play snooker and really get excited about it if I’m in my slot, in my groove, timing the ball well and it’s all coming easily to me.

If I’m not doing that, I’m not prepared to go through the pain barrier as much anymore. I’ve made a pact with myself that if things aren’t quite going right, then a defeat isn’t the end of the world.”

He is right of course about the level of the amateur game and there are any number of reasons that contributed to its decline, some linked to the way the sport has been managed and promoted over the years, some related to way our societies have evolved and to what today’s young people desire to achieve or indeed what their parents want them to achieve. But there is also the fact that the brutal current structure offers no path for development for young professionals.

Steve Feeney posted this on FB after learning that Kaçper Filipiak is giving up on snooker:

Just sharing my thoughts seeing the 25 Year old 2019 European Champion quit the game having fallen off Tour following his World Championship 2 Round defeat….
People will debate the fors and againsts, however I see the Flat Draw as being brutal for younger players who are working hard to craft a successful profession is this sport.
No prize money at the bottom end of Events / and in many cases very small prize money at lower end of many Events is undoubtedly compounding pressure on the younger players unless they have good financial sponsors.
Most new / young players to the Tour nowadays need more time to develop in the Ranks, especially with the Flat Draw structure where statistically they will meet a Top 16 Player 1:4 events – some players Seasons have been plagued with such tough Draws.
So their game has to be of at least Top 32 Standard ‘consistently’ almost immediately to survive. By comparison the Apprenticeship of Professional Snooker is no longer like it was in the Tiered Structure from which so many of our Top Players and top 32 players developed their ‘skills’ and ‘ring craft’.
Or is the current ‘Development Pathway’ i.e. Q-School / Challenge / QTour to becoming a Pro meant to be a Professional Apprenticeship – there is definitely a gap ….
Thoughts ….

I can only agree. It’s basically what I have been writing here countless times over the last years.

Build-up to the Crucible – “The Break” Eurosport potcast

Eurosport is back with “the Break”

You can listen to the last instalment here:

 

And here is the written account about it what Ronnie thinks about the possible Crucible favourites and his own game:

 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP -‘HE’S LIKE A MICHEL ROUX CAKE’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON ‘FRIGHTENING’ ROBERTSON

His game is built to do well in Sheffield and over the years he’s added to his game and now he’s taken over from John Higgins as the player with the best all-around game. He plays safety very well, his temperament is brilliant, his scoring is unbelievable, his potting is just frightening, I’ve never seen anyone with a cue action as good as that.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is in a relaxed mood ahead of the defence of his World Championship title, but believes Neil Robertson is the biggest obstacle to him winning at the Crucible for a seventh time.

The 45-year-old ended a seven-year wait for a sixth world title when beating Kyren Wilson in the final, but he has not won an event since that victory in August.
O’Sullivan has lost five successive finals, the most recent being at the hands of Neil Robertson in the Tour Championship.

He was comfortably second best to Robertson at Celtic Manor, and feels the Australian is favourite for the World Championship which gets underway on April 17.

What happens at Sheffield is that when you get on a good run you seem to just win matches every year,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport’s The Break podcast.

It comes like a run in itself but then it can go the other way as well.

I think [John] Higgins didn’t make a quarter-final for seven or eight years. You could have got any price you want down the bookies on that. I did the same from 2013 to 2021, I didn’t make a semi-final.

Robertson is the same. I think every player goes through a little phase like that in their career at Sheffield where they just don’t seem to be able to make the final stages.

I think at some point that will change for Neil and when it does I think you’ll see him win one, get to a final, maybe three finals on the spin.

His game is built to do well in Sheffield and over the years he’s added to his game and now he’s taken over from John Higgins as the player with the best all-around game. He plays safety very well, his temperament is brilliant, his scoring is unbelievable, his potting is just frightening, I’ve never seen anyone with a cue action as good as that.

SO, IF YOU’RE MAKING A CAKE AND PUTTING ALL THAT INTO IT YOU’RE GOING TO COME OUT WITH A ‘MICHEL ROUX’ CAKE AND THINK, ‘WOW, THAT TASTES AMAZING’.

O’Sullivan has shown patches of brilliance this season, but has not found form in the finals he has contested.

I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “I’ve had a great season. I’ve enjoyed playing. Everything is really good.

I go to a tournament like ‘have I got my running boots with me? Yeah OK great. Have I got my restaurants sorted? Yeah, great.

I CAN DEAL WITH THE SNOOKER, WHATEVER IT THROWS AT ME I’M ALRIGHT BECAUSE I’VE GOT THOSE TWO THINGS IN PLACE SO THE SNOOKER BECOMES SOMETHING I JUST DO BECAUSE I’M THERE. IF I PLAY GREAT, BRILLIANT!

I’m super-enthusiastic about playing, and continuing, and trying to go as far as I can in the tournament.

If I’m not playing great, I know I’m not a grinder and there’s no point me doing what Jimmy [White] seems to be doing which is trying to grind it out, take my time, get focused and over-practice.

You won’t see me on the practice tables before a match ever because I don’t want to know how I’m playing ten minutes before I go out there. I’d rather find out when I’m there.

With that kind of attitude, it’s a lot easier to deal with because otherwise it becomes tough. It’s a tough sport anyway so you have to find that happy medium.

I feel alright to be honest with you. It’s no secret; it’s not my favourite tournament. Last year it was a bit better because there was not so much smothering going on. So I enjoyed last year and this year has been OK. I’m looking forward to Sheffield but also looking forward to a bit of a break at the end of it.”

Commenting on the state of his game heading into the Crucible, O’Sullivan said: “I came back in the New Year, I took three or four weeks off after that, and I’ve enjoyed my snooker up until the Welsh [Open] when [John] Higgins gave me a good hiding.

But I’ve enjoyed the best of three tournaments, I’ve enjoyed playing and just seeing where my game’s at. Every tournament hasn’t been about winning it’s been about ‘where’s my game now compared to last week?’ ‘I’ve taken three weeks off now, I wonder where it is compared to three weeks ago. OK not too bad.’

SO BECAUSE I WAS PLAYING A BIT MORE REGULARLY I WASN’T AT AS MUCH OF A DISADVANTAGE WHEN I WAS PLAYING. BEFORE I’D TAKE SIX OR SEVEN WEEKS OFF AND MISS SIX OR SEVEN TOURNAMENTS. WHEN I DID COME BACK IT TOOK ME THREE OR FOUR TOURNAMENTS TO EVEN HAVE A CHANCE TO COMPETE REALLY.

It’s been a nice year in a way because I feel like I’ve had half a chance when I’ve played.

Ronnie also gives his opinion on the Jimmy White vs Stephen Hendry match. It was a horrible draw for Jimmy who puts too much pressure of himself, as Stephen Hendy himself reckons.

And a bit of video…