Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe are back with their podcasts after a short summer break. The last one features David Grace, one of the nicest and most interesting character on the tour. The link to the podacast is in the article blelow.
The article itself reports on David’s opinion on Ronnie and Zhao’s collaboration and what he expects of Zhao in the near future.
Ronnie himself said that he can work with Zhao because they are similar, he wouldn’t be able to help players who are too different from himself.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Zhao Xintong a ‘match made in heaven,’ reckons David Grace
Phil Haigh – Wednesday 15 Jun 2022
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Zhao Xintong seem like a match made in heaven, believes David Grace, as the Rocket continues to help the Cyclone develop his game.
The world number one was working with the UK champion last season, giving him general advice on the game and looking to impart some wisdom on shot selection and tactics.
The seven-time world champion thinks very highly of the 25-year-old, saying he has the talent to become the greatest player ever and wants to help him fulfil his potential.
With the greatest player in the game’s history in the corner of one of the most talented young stars in the sport, it is an exciting prospect and one that world number 55, Grace, reckons will work for all parties involved.
‘Seems like a match made in heaven, doesn’t it? I think Ronnie could only work with players as talented as Zhao,’ Grace told the Talking Snooker podcast.
‘He couldn’t come along and turn me into a heavy scorer or a 16 seconds-a-shot merchant, could he, let’s be honest.
‘He needs to be working with that level of player and that’s what will excite him. I think Ronnie will really enjoy it as well.’
Zhao began fulfilling his immense potential last season when he won the UK Championship and German Masters – his first two ranking events.
Much will be expected of him this campaign, but Grace has urged some caution and feels it will be a good season if the world number six can go deep in tournaments more consistently.
‘If he consolidates being a top 16 player and gets to the business end of a few tournaments, I think that’s fine for him,’ said the Yorkshireman.
‘He’s suddenly gone from where he was to winning two tournaments in such a short space of time, it’ll be difficult for him to do that again, I can’t see that happening again.
‘But you never know, that might be the breakthrough that he needed and he might go on to achieve things that people didn’t think he was capable of.’
O’Sullivan and Zhao’s great relationship has continued over the summer, with the Chinese star going with the world champion to Singapore to play exhibitions at the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy.
The 46-year-old is a big fan of the Cyclone on and off the table and wants to do for Zhao what the legendary Ray Reardon did for him earlier in his career.
‘He could be the greatest of all time with his talent, his ability,’ said O’Sullivan ahead of the 2022 World Snooker Championship. ‘I always say he’s Roger Federer with a snooker cue in his hands. But he’s got to develop and learn, and he will learn. He’s like me, he’s a quick learner and he’s shown that he’s on it.
‘A bit like what Reardon done with me, he showed me how to defend better. Xintong attacks but it’s sometimes attacking because he’s forced to attack. I said to him, “If you do this better, you’ll always have the upper hand, the more you’ve got the upper hand the more you will feel comfortable. You don’t want to play snooker from desperation.”
‘That’s what I used to do, play from desperation. Attack because I don’t know how to get out of trouble and pot my way out of it. Let’s not do that, get the odds in our favour, but you need to go about it in a certain way for that to happen.’
Meanwhile, the pair is still in Singapore.
Some more pictures – well, a lot of more pictures actually – were shared on RoSSA facebook page. This series is about the official opening ceremony.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: SNOOKER THE LAST SPORT I’D WANT MY CHILDREN TO PLAY, THE SPORT NEEDS TO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER
Seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits tennis, golf, football and athletics pose as more attractive options for parents when looking at sports their children to play. O’Sullivan is launching the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy in Singapore and will play an exhibition tournament this weekend alongside Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai.
BY MICHAEL HINCK
Ronnie O’Sullivan says snooker “needs to get its act together” after admitting he would advise children against playing the sport.
O’Sullivan is in Singapore to officially launch the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy, and is set to play an exhibition tournament on Saturday alongside China’s Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai of Thailand.
Speaking about the challenges snooker faces, world champion O’Sullivan admitted the sport is in a “tough position” given its competition.
“It’s hard because obviously football is such a big sport now, tennis, golf,” O’Sullivan told SNTV.
“You have all these sports so if you’re a parent, and if you’re looking at a sport for your son or daughter to get involved in, would you choose snooker? You probably wouldn’t.
“So it’s really difficult to sort of get excited about snooker. You know, I love snooker, I’ve played it all my life, but also I’m a parent as well and I think if I was advising my children on a sport to play, snooker would be the last sport I probably want them to play.
“I’d say maybe try tennis, maybe try golf, play football, maybe athletics, you know all that sort of stuff. So snooker’s in a really tough position at the moment, of where it goes, so it’s up against a lot of other good sports.
“Snooker needs to get its act together I think, more importantly, and at the moment, you can’t compare it to all the other sports really.”
Asked whether a big investment would help snooker, O’Sullivan added: “I think it’d be fantastic for the sport if that was to happen. You need someone like a big backer like the Saudi-people to just come along and say ‘look, this is what we are going to do’ and the players will be like ‘yeah, great’, they probably go for it. That probably would be a good thing for snooker.
“It may be China, maybe Saudi (Arabia), maybe one of them places I think. You need someone with deep pockets that can afford to put maybe a hundred million aside, this is it for the next five years, the players’ futures are secured, they know where they are, you know then that would be great for snooker.”
O’Sullivan won his seventh world title in May after beating Judd Trump 18-13 in the final.
The 46-year-old admitted he was not entirely enjoying his time at the Crucible, but felt the pressure to perform with a television crew following him for a documentary.
“I decided a long time ago that if something got too much pressure, or I thought you know what, I’m not really enjoying this, then it’s probably better that I lose and let somebody else have that place.
“And I felt that during this world championships. I didn’t really enjoy it. But I had this film crew following me so I thought, I better try hard because they’re following me. So that was why I won it. It wasn’t because I wanted to win it. It was just that I felt bad for the TV crew.
He added: “I don’t even actually like talking about snooker. I enjoy playing it but I don’t really want to be too involved in it. So obviously winning the world championships, it really turned everything around and everyone was like, ‘Ah you’re world champion this, world number one’, I was like oh no, I don’t want to be known as that person anymore.
“I just want to enjoy my life you know, but when you’re in the spotlight, everybody gets excited. I’m like, I don’t really want to be that person anymore.”
There a few things in this interview I want to comment on.
First, it’s very obvious that when Ronnie says that he wouldn’t want his son to embrace snooker, it’s “snooker as a profession”. Every parent wants the best for their kids and they want them to be able to earn a decent living and be safe economically. Whatever WST claims, only the top 32 are in that position in snooker, and to be in the top 32, you have to be exceptionally good at it. Only the very top can make enough money to be safe once they retire. Ronnie feels that other “good” sports provide better opportunities to earn, whilst, currently snooker isn’t in that position.
Ronnie mentions Saudi Arabia, no doubt because all the noise about the golf “LIV” tour. I would hate it if Saudi Arabia was getting deeply involved in snooker. This is a terribly repressive regime that tries to rekindle its image – and secure revenues other than those provided by the oil sector – though sports. It’s called “sportswashing” and here is an article by the guardian explaining what their strategy is. It’s 18 months old but still totally relevant. Last March, Amnesty International again raised strong concerns after 81 persons were executed, some of them merely for peacefully protesting. Does the sport we love really want to be involved with such a terrible regime? Alas, they probably would … after all a very lucrative event had been planned to be played there and is probably still on the cards. Now, whilst the snooker authorities can’t possibly ignore the type of country they are dealing with, the players … I’m not so sure. Most of them don’t read much outside the UK news and even then, their interest is mainly about sports. And, of course, China is also a very repressive regime when it comes to ethnic minorities.
That said, that “sportswashing” policy inevitably brings more foreigners in the country. That, in turn, might, in the longer term, force those regimes to become more tolerant to diversity. No matter how hard you try to “hide” some realities, having more “foreign eyes” around will increase the risk of unwanted truths to be exposed. That’s inevitable: such events attract journalists, you can’t keep every single visitor in a “bubble” and some will see beyond the appearances and will talk. If it happens it will eventually backlash.
Finally about Ronnie’s “lack of desire”, I think his very emotional reaction after his win tells us everything we need to know. That said, he isn’t actually telling lies. The World Championship is a 17 days hard slog. Someone like Ronnie has to cope with a lot of tension, a lot of demands from WST and the media, a lot of expectations from the fans. He’s naturally a rather anxious person. I do believe him when he says he doesn’t enjoy that… not after 30 years in the job and in the media spotligth. Having this documentary filmed gave him extra motivation to try his hardest.
Jason Ferguson on Hong Kong, sponsorship, Ronnie O’Sullivan, prize money and the Crucible
Phil Haigh Wednesday 11 May 2022
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has offered the latest on various things going on in snooker at the minute, from new tournaments, to sponsorship deals to changes in prize money.
Ferguson’s work rarely stops as he promotes the game across the globe and the first piece of business is on the potential return to Hong Kong for an event this season.
A tournament in Hong Kong?
Marco Fu suggested that a tournament in his homeland is on the cards, tweeting: ‘Lots of happy moments in the last major tournament in Hong Kong. Looks like there will be one this summer! Hope it will happen!’
Ferguson told Metro.co.uk: ‘We are in talks in Hong Kong, we do have a broadcaster.
‘There’s a broadcaster in Hong Kong which takes all of the snooker coverage and we do know their viewing figures are huge.
‘We are in discussions over it, it’s not finalised as yet, but we’re very optimistic about it.
‘A lot of it is down to travel restrictions. Demand for us to put on events in Asia is huge, but it’s down to whether we can make it work from a travel perspective.
‘Of course we’d love to go back there. There’s a great following for the sport, the passion is there.’
On what kind of event it could be, he added: ‘At this stage I couldn’t really say how it’s going to pan out. It might be that we have to do a smaller field to try and comply with travel restrictions.
‘The idea is to try and put a marker down, push to get an event on in Asia, put those protocols in place and then push to expand on that.
‘We can’t be too ambitious at this stage, so I imagine it will be a fairly small field if we do it.
‘At the moment we’re looking at 21 days quarantine after travel, which means it’s impossible. At the moment we’re pushing to ease those travel restrictions or get some kind of exemption under sports travel, but it’s very tight at the moment and very difficult.’
On where else we could see new events, the chairman said: ‘We’re more likely to see things like Turkey. That’s been a fantastic addition to the calendar: new market, huge demand from fans and we’re more likely to see that kind of event pop up – around the Mediterranean, snooker is growing and those places are opening up.
‘In the new year, we have put dates aside for China events but if they don’t come off then we are working on things to fill those gaps. While those flights might not be long haul, we will have chance to put some nice events on.’
As Cazoo extend their involvement with snooker by sponsoring the World Championship, Ferguson welcomed them further on board and thanked previous sponsors Betfred for their excellent work.
‘They’re proving to be a great partner,’ said Ferguson. ‘They’ve come back for more sponsorship rights, more exposure and we’re delighted to work with them. They’re a new brand, it’s clean, a great outlook for us.
‘But lets not forget what Betfred have done for his sport and the support they’ve given is, it’s been incredible. Fred Done is an incredible individual. He loves this sport, loves to see it develop and has loved being a part of it. I thanked Fred last week, not just for the sponsorship and high level stuff, but the percentage of investment he puts in that we use at grassroots to get kids off streets and into clubs, keep clubs open. We see that side of the investment on the ground and it’s been an incredible commitment.
It will no longer be the Betfred World Snooker Championship (Picture: Getty Images)
‘It’s a system that we’ve got that makes sure a percentage of what comes into the sport goes into projects and development and we’ll continue that work with the Cazoo support. We’re in good shape as a sport.’
The WPBSA chairman suggested there was more to the move than pre-empting a possible ban on sponsorship by bookmakers.
‘I don’t think that was necessarily the angle,’ he said. ‘All of our rights agreements come up for renewal on a regular basis and there’s always more than one runner in the race for those rights. That’s a pleasing position to be in.
‘You go back 15 years and you were wondering, post-tobacco, where the next sponsorship deal was coming from. We’re here today and we’ve actually sold out, we’ve got more bidders for events than we’ve got events, which is an amazing position to be in. It’s an ongoing position of renewing agreements and some things change. Maybe they’ll be back at the table at some point.’
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s disciplinary matters
The Rocket faced disciplinary action after making a lewd gesture during his first round match at the World Championship, with that process ongoing.
Ferguson explained: ‘There’s no outcome of it yet, but the matter was referred. It will all get wrapped up pretty quickly, there’s a process for these things.’
O’Sullivan’s clash with referee Olivier Marteel in the Crucible final, though, is not being dealt with by anyone else, with the matter wrapped up at the time.
‘It was dealt with within the match and that is the correct thing to do,’ said Ferguson. ‘The referee’s in charge, the referee deals with it and gives the warning. The referee is in charge of awarding frames and matches if he has to, if matters continue.
‘It was dealt with and I know that Ronnie was very decent about it afterwards, he spoke to Olivier and I think he apologised for how he spoke to him in the arena and that matter has gone away.’
Ambitious plans were revealed for a new ‘second Crucible’ attached to the current one by a bridge and Ferguson explains that discussions are ongoing with Sheffield City Council, although the idea remains just a concept at this point.
‘We’ve met with the City Council,’ said the chairman. ‘[Architect] James Burland is someone I’ve worked with previously and we spoke a few months back about rekindling the concept and having another look at it.
‘We talked about the idea, and it’s just a concept at this moment in time. It will need a great deal of studying over feasibility and longevity, is it viable? You don’t want a white elephant stadium, it’s no good for anybody.
‘We’ve met with the council and of course they’re very warm to development and very warm to snooker because it brings millions and millions of pounds into the city year after year. I think the last independent study by Sheffield Hallam said the city had benefited by £100m over the years, but it’s significantly more than that in today’s terms.
‘It’s very much on the drawing board and a concept but it’s a project of interest.
‘Now’s the time to start talking about what the future looks like. We’re very loyal to Sheffield but now is the time to think about longer term, especially if there’s going to be a regeneration project, because these things take time.
‘We should never underestimate the size and scale of this sport, it’s only going to get bigger. It isn’t going to go backwards anymore.’
There is set to be a restructuring of prize money distribution for the season ahead, with a bid to make the spread a bit fairer and for the rankings to more accurately reflect achievement.
‘We’re looking at prize money breakdowns, how that’s balancing the ranking system,’ said Ferguson. ‘Finer detail on that is being done now in terms of how it works.
‘We’re just trying to balance out what players win round-by-round to make a fairer ranking system.At the moment sometimes players get to the latter stages of one event that’s worth the same as one win in another event. There’s bigger and smaller events so we’ll always get some of that, but there’s a bit of work being done around all that.
‘We’re reviewing every event for this season coming. Comparing the winner’s prize to first round matches, and in conjunction with that, what’s the round structure like.
‘It’ll be available very quickly, we’re working very hard on that. I have to compliment the WPBSA players board, they’ve done a real good job in recent months identifying key areas that can be improved and getting the message across. I’m really pleased with that new structure with the player’s body, it’s really starting to work.’
I do hope that amongst the things “to be improved”, they will consider paying a fee, covering basic expenses, to the first round losers, not counting towards ranking. That’s no “rewarding mediocrity”, that’s simply making sure that doing their job, as professionals, doesn’t cost the players. I have said this countless times before, but I’ll say it again: you need two players to have a match. One will lose, but by playing they have brought value to the tournament, the venue, the sponsors and the broadcaster. That should be recognised. They shouldn’t be out of pocket for doing their job properly.
Ronnie O’Sullivan excited for snooker venture as he announces Singapore trip
Phil Haigh Tuesday 10 May 2022
Ronnie O’Sullivan is heading to Singapore for his first ever exhibition in the country and to cast an eye over the work being done at his academy there.
The Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy opened at the end of 2021, with the Rocket speaking of his excitement about the venture earlier in the year.
He told the Sun a year ago: ‘We have already got the facilities. It’s a 16,000-square feet space.
‘We are putting tables in there. We will have some professional coaches. We hope to roll it out all over Asia. Ronnie O’Sullivan snooker academies with the long-term view to try and create an amateur scene.
‘Over there they are much more supportive of their amateurs and juniors and get excited over that. It is something I think will work. While snooker gives me the platform to do projects like that, sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture.’
Now he is heading over to Singapore next month to perform exhibitions from 11-18 June, while he also confirmed that he will be working on coaching in his academy as well.
‘Looking forward to going over to Singapore in June, it should be great. The academy looks fantastic out there,’ O’Sullivan said after lifting a seventh world title.
‘I’m excited to get out there and spend some time there, see what they’re up to. I’ll work out some coaching plans and developing snooker in Asia is going to be a really fun thing to do.’
Further explaining his plan for Asian expansion to the Sun, O’Sullivan said: ‘The idea is to get the first one right, get it successful and then once that is going well, it will be easier to roll out the rest of them.
‘China definitely is a massive part of the plan but the first one will start out in Singapore.
‘The good ones that come through the academy we would like to support them, to try and get their main Tour Card and become professional players.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN EXCLUSIVE: WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPION ON HOW HE BEAT SELF-DOUBT TO LIFT SEVENTH TITLE
Ronnie O’Sullivan passed snooker’s ultimate test to claim a career-defining seventh Crucible title, but the world champion tells Desmond Kane why the journey to potting paradise remains one of the most mentally demanding and draining in professional sport. “I just wasn’t sure if it was possible,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport as he reflected on securing his legacy as the snooker GOAT.
BY DESMOND KANE
Who needs the Rovers Return when you have the Rocket’s return?
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump’s very own epic kitchen-sink drama in Yorkshire last Monday evening proved more engaging for the great British public than Coronation Street or EastEnders on the other two main terrestrial TV channels.
Almost six million viewers piped themselves into O’Sullivan’s rousing 18-13 win over Trump that saw him battle to a magnificent seventh world title and equal Stephen Hendry’s historic haul from the 1990s.
Betty Turpin’s hot pots from Corrie were never as tasty as the hot pots Rocket Ronnie can serve up.
In discovering the level of snooker’s popularity from a breathless 17 days at the 46th World Championship, O’Sullivan said: “Oh really? Wow. Amazing. It is brilliant getting more viewers than Coronation Street.
IT IS REALLY GOOD THAT EVERYBODY IS EXCITED BY SNOOKER AGAIN. MAYBE IT HAS TAKEN A LITTLE TURN AND IS ON THE UP.
“It is a long time playing at the World Championship, a lot of stress and I’m just recovering. It is hard work, but it was job done, so worth it.”
With O’Sullivan installed as 7/2 favourite for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ahead of Tyson Fury – the world heavyweight boxing champion of all things and a genuine sporting goliath – it felt like a trip down memory lane to an era when snooker was the only show in town.
“In the 1980s when there were only four channels, everybody thought they knew you. It was like you were in EastEnders,” commented Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White, the six-time world finalist.
Some four decades on, O’Sullivan’s career-defining victory broadcast to millions across the BBC and Eurosport was as much of a cliff-hanger as Dirty Den divorcing Angie in the Queen Vic as the sport’s two brightest talents illuminated the final with their unique attacking colour.
O’Sullivan is the undisputed king of his domain after an awe-inspiring few weeks saw him reach seventh heaven with his inimitable élan, technical supremacy and swagger with cue in hand.
He stands alongside Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and White as genuine crowd-pleasers who have changed the face of snooker since the Crucible first housed the World Championship in 1977, bringing a greater popularity to the green baize beyond working-class blokes potting balls in darkened halls set against the sweat of heavy industry.
When Higgins lifted his second world title in 1982, the Northern Irishman memorably cradled baby daughter Lauren, wife Lynn and the trophy as the tears flowed.
In a timely little slice of history repeating itself 40 years later, O’Sullivan – the natural successor to Higgins and White as ‘The People’s Champion’ – sobbed as the enormity of the achievement sunk in with dad Ronnie Sr and kids Lily and Ronnie Jr joining him to celebrate. Memories are made of his.
“I didn’t wake up last Tuesday feeling any different. I just thought that it was more about everybody else enjoying themselves,” he said.
“My dad was there for the whole three weeks of the tournament enjoying it, hanging out with a lot of snooker people that follow the game.
“Then I thought it would be great if the kids could be there if they wanted to. It was a good experience for everyone as it might never happen again.
THAT WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO ME. IT WAS NICE TO WIN IT, BUT IT WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAT EVERYONE ELSE ENJOYED IT. IT WAS REALLY NICE.
“It was a relief to get the job done. It was a professional job. It’s a test. That is how I look at it every time I enter a tournament like that.
“You go there and prepare as well as you can. To win it is great. You don’t always win it, but it is nice to win it again at my stage in the game.”
O’Sullivan usurped the Welshman Ray Reardon – the tactical coach behind his 2004 triumph – to become the oldest world champion since the inception of the modern era.
O’Sullivan had 46 years and 148 days behind him when he held aloft the little silver lady on a priceless Bank Holiday Monday.
Reardon was 45 years and 203 days when he completed a 25-18 win over South Africa’s Perrie Mans in the 1978 final to carry off his sixth and final world title.
O’Sullivan concedes the level of play he reached suggests his career at the elite level can run for several more years after rolling in 15 century breaks and 46 knocks over 50.
It is perhaps fitting that O’Sullivan is planning to release a Netflix-style fly-on-the-wall documentary surrounding his rise to a seventh crown.
A camera crew apparently tailed his every move in a style similar to Michael Jordan’s last NBA season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998 titled The Last Dance.
For O’Sullivan, this was never going to be the last chance, but better to tie up legacy loose ends now.
A remorseless single-mindedness in such a cut-throat environment is a quality O’Sullivan shares with Jordan, Roger Federer, Lionel Messi and Tiger Woods in other fields of play.
He knows how and when to get the job done on the grandest stage of all. Like all the great champions, he also senses the right time to express his superior class.
With a record 39 ranking titles carried off and 1,169 centuries compiled, he is the sport’s undisputed GOAT, a seventh wonder of the sporting world since turning professional in 1992. To argue otherwise does not make sense.
There is only one Ronnie O’Sullivan, a figure who will remarkably start the 2022/23 campaign as the world No. 1 – 20 years after he first scaled the summit at the age of 26.
This is astonishing longevity in a solitary, mentally undulating game that can play tricks on the mind when you are stuck in a chair and the other guy is potting balls.
The World Championship is no place for weak or wilting spirit with Peter Ebdon, hardly resembling ‘Big’ Bill Werbeniuk, infamously shedding stones due to the nervous energy of winning the trophy in 2002 with a fraught 18-17 win over Hendry.
Not that O’Sullivan spends too much time isolated in his seat. When he is at the table, he plays like he owns it. He is enshrined by a youthfulness, vibrancy and expressiveness that bewitches millions across the globe.
“I’m 46 banging on 47 so to know I can still win it lets me know I could have another five decent years,” said O’Sullivan.
I DON’T THINK YOU CAN GO FROM WINNING THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TO FALLING OFF THE RADAR OVERNIGHT. IT IS JUST A NICE LITTLE CONFIDENCE BOOSTER REALLY.
“It is such a long tournament. It is a bit like the Grand Slams in tennis when they play five sets rather than just the three.
“It is more about lasting the event more than anything. A lot of players reach the quarter-finals and by then they think they’ve run their course.
“Whereas the top players are better conditioned, have been over the course and know how to pace themselves.
“The World Championship is similar to that. You make the semi-finals and once you get to that point you are still only halfway through so you want to leave a bit in the tank.
“That just comes with experience and knowing what it takes to get over the line.”
O’Sullivan felt his form was on an upward trajectory at the Gibraltar Open in March despite losing 4-3 to Ben Woollaston in the first round.
His optimism was further enhanced at the Tour Championship when he edged out Mark Williams – a marvellous competitor who only lost 17-16 by Trump in the Crucible last four – 10-9 in the quarter-finals in Llandudno before losing 10-9 to Neil Robertson in the semi-finals last month.
He weighed in with 10 tons and eight half centuries to hint at greater riches.
“The minute it switched on for me was when I went to Gibraltar,” he admitted.
“Even though I lost, I felt like I was playing well despite missing the odd few balls. A week before I went to Llandudno, I put some good practice in. I was scoring well.
“There were a couple of things that needed sharpening up in my game, but I played great in Llandudno and went away for two weeks before the worlds.
“I put in a lot of hard work before the tournament, sharpened up and by the time I got to Sheffield I thought: ‘My game is in good shape’.
“If it comes together great, but if it doesn’t what can you do. But I felt my game was alright.
I JUST WASN’T SURE IF IT WAS POSSIBLE TO DO IT. SOMETIMES YOU CAN DO EVERYTHING RIGHT, BUT MAYBE YOU DON’T HAVE THE STAMINA OR THE CONSISTENCY OF A FEW YEARS AGO OR WHATEVER.
“Who knows? But yeah, I surprised myself there.”
Achieving immortality in the toughest of all cue sports does not come easy even for the green baize’s main protagonist. The tale of the table does not always reward the best man.
He trailed 3-0 to David Gilbert in his tournament opener, but was a figure of unrelenting focus in adversity, ending the first session 6-3 clear in a match from which he would run out a 10-5 winner. His unflustered play was a pivotal theme of the event. Almost like he knew the end destination was more likely than not if he refused to panic.
He overpowered Mark Allen 13-4 in the last 16 before shredding Stephen Maguire 13-5 in the quarter-finals.
A match with his fierce foe John Higgins – the player he defeated 18-14 to claim his first world title in 2001 – was always likely to prove the ultimate test of O’Sullivan’s technique in the three-day semi-final torture chamber. The talent has never been in doubt.
Two key moments of that contest summed up O’Sullivan’s commitment to the cause after he had trailed 3-0: his opportunism to force a re-spotted black in the 16th and final frame of the second session that gave him a 10-6 lead before the final day.
And the miraculous clearance of 82 he made leading 10-7 on the Saturday morning after a taut period of tough safety play with the Scotsman attempting to turn the match back in his favour.
That break was arguably the most memorable of the tournament, ranking alongside the 92 he produced in the seventh frame of the 2012 final against Ali Carter in an 18-11 win.
It provided O’Sullivan with the impetus to complete a comfortable 17-11 victory over Higgins, who was left proclaiming him as the greatest in history.
“It is a mammoth tournament,” O’Sullivan commented.
I DON’T THINK I’M THE BEST POTTER OR THE BEST IN ANY DEPARTMENT. I’M ABOUT EIGHT OR NINE OUT OF 10 IN EVERY DEPARTMENT AND IT WAS THAT CONSISTENCY OVER THE 17 DAYS THAT GOT ME THROUGH.
“I was just competing in every area and doing all things pretty well.
“I remember nicking a frame when I needed two blacks and won it on the re-spotted black against John. I also remember we had a long drawn out safety battle with me and Higgins then potting a long red before clearing up.
“Just lots of frames were big turning points. When you win the close ones against John, you know you’ve got a chance.
“It is alright winning frames with big breaks. That is nice, but at some point in these events you are going to face someone who is scoring as well as you and then it comes down to who can pinch the close ones.
“As I got into the match with John, I started to eke out a few of those close ones. That dented his confidence, gave me more confidence and probably changed the momentum of the match.
“John is more suited to winning the tactical frames and I’m probably more suited to the open scoring frames, but it was good to compete with him in the ones where he was probably favourite.”
O’Sullivan’s impeccable rise to the title in the final was far from a coronation. He galloped 12-5 clear on the first day of the final only for Trump, the 2019 champion, to claw his way back to 14-11 behind before the conclusion loomed large with the destination of the title unclear.
Rather than look over his shoulder, O’Sullivan quickly disposed of the permutations with a composed air emanating from his cue, compiling unerring breaks of 82, 88, 75 and 85 to complete a stylish gallop to the game’s biggest prize.
One recalls speaking to Jimmy White during the 2012 Masters when the elite tournament was first staged at the Alexandra Palace.
O’Sullivan had lost 6-2 to Trump in the quarter-finals of the event, an encounter that was being described back then as a “changing of the guard”.
When asked if O’Sullivan could add to his three world titles, White responded:
“I know O’Sullivan and he will be out to put this all right by the World Championship.
“Ronnie has got five or six world titles left in him. He is too good. He is far too good.”
The Whirlwind has turned out to be a snooker soothsayer. O’Sullivan has lifted another four titles since that point. Who would bet against him reaching 10 before he pots his final ball? Certainly not Jimmy.
The work carried out with celebrated sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters to maintain a positive mindset and maintain mental equilibrium was a key element in his latest triumph.
AT TIMES I FELT LIKE THE CUE BALL WAS ON A PIECE OF STRING. I WAS PUTTING IT WHERE I WANTED. IN SOME WAYS, IT DIDN’T MATTER WHERE THE BALLS WERE.
“I just knew there were keys shots I had to get to and I was confident I was able to do it.
“It is a good feeling winning frames from virtually impossible positions.”
Car retailer Cazoo will replace bookmakers Betfred as sponsors of the 47th World Championship next year, but O’Sullivan hopes the viewing figures can entice greater interest in the sport.
“If you want a blue-chip company, you have to change the image of the sport in many ways,” he said.
“At the moment, it is dominated by betting companies, but other sponsors may not want to be associated with that. I don’t know.
“In Formula One you have betting companies and Rolex so maybe that isn’t right. It just depends on how they see snooker.
“It would be great if the game could kick on like the 1980s. Tobacco companies sponsored snooker and a lot of the big sporting events back then but who knows?
“The viewing figures are great so that is always a good thing to put in front of people.
THEY’RE LOOKING FOR EYEBALLS AND THERE ARE 4.5 MILLION EYEBALLS WATCHING THE FINAL SO ANY SPONSOR WANTING THEIR PRODUCT TO BE SEEN…THESE ARE IMPORTANT STATISTICS TO SHOW THEM.
O’Sullivan famously took a season off between his fourth and fifth victories at the event in 2012 and 2013 respectively, but plans to throw himself into the new campaign with new worlds to be conquered. A few more of them in Sheffield perhaps.
He could return at the European Masters in August, but the British Open in late September is likelier.
His appearance as world champion in Brentwood for the English Open in December should be one to savour before a raucous home crowd.
“The season starts again in August so I’m pretty much going to play in most things,” he said. “I won’t practise much. I’ve got a few exhibitions and a few holidays with the family.
“Come September/October time, I’ll start getting my head down again to practise. I’m just going to play in virtually every tournament.
IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I WIN OR LOSE. AS LONG AS I KEEP THE RUSTINESS OFF SO WHEN I DO START PRACTISING IT WILL ONLY TAKE A WEEK TO GET BACK IN FULL FLOW.
“I haven’t looked at the calendar properly, but I’ll take a look and decide from there.”
O’Sullivan’s opportunism is perhaps only rivalled by the launch of his own ‘7 Collection’ the day after the final that included the amusing “You saw nothing” response to referee Olivier Marteel after he had been accused of an inappropriate gesture.
Clothing and cups are all the rage these days in sport, but what was the plan if he had not reached seven?
“Keep them for next year mate.”
Judging by this latest astonishing triumph for O’Sullivan’s timeless vitality, the merch could be out of date by then.
What surprised me most here is what he says about his feelings about his game in Gibraltar, although it’s not the first time I hear/read about a player assessing their game seemingly at odds with their recent results. The thing is: we can only watch, they know how they feel.
On the topic of distancing themselves from betting companies, I’m not sure I entirely believe that the move to Cazoo is unrelated to the recent developments when it comes to raising awareness and tackling gambling addictions – in youth in particular – as well as what happened at the 2021 Scottish Open. Remember? It had to be moved to Llandudno after the venue’s management took the decision to no more host events sponsored by bookies.
Note that many parts in bold are my “highligths” and were not in bold in the original text.
It’s a fantastic interview and a very interesting insight into the mind of Ronnie.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Dr Steve Peters: The partnership and techniques which reignited the Rocket’s career
By Chris Hammer
Dr Steve Peters has lifted the lid on his successful partnership with Ronnie O’Sullivan and revealed some of the techniques that have helped him reinvigorate his career over the past decade.
The enigmatic Rocket was close to walking away from snooker at the age of 35 in 2011 following a difficult spell dating back to his third world title in 2008, but after reluctantly meeting the renowned sports psychiatrist, his fortunes changed in emphatic fashion.
At that time he was still four short of Stephen Hendry’s seven Crucible titles while he had also won seven fewer Triple Crowns than the Scotsman’s tally of 18 and was also 14 ranking titles behind with 22.
However, the most important void in O’Sullivan’s snooker life was not the drought of major silverware but the absence of the fun factor.
As enjoyment began to return, back-to-back World Championships kick-started another awesome era, which reached another unforgettable high on Sunday night when he became the oldest Crucible champion at the age of 46 to finally drew level with Hendry’s most prized record.
The world number one’s 21 Triple Crowns and 39 ranking titles means he can now be statistically regarded as the greatest snooker player of all time – but would it have been possible without the influence of Peters?
After an emotional trophy ceremony that had followed O’Sullivan’s lengthy embrace with Judd Trump and tearful celebrations with his family, the Londoner said: “If it hadn’t have been for Steve Peters I would probably be in some hot country like Portugal living in a nice beach house and coming to the UK once every six weeks to see my family.
“I had the talent, I had the game… If I was on it was great, but if I was off I was looking for the exit doors, thinking ‘It’s time to go home’, because I didn’t enjoy digging it out.
“But I’ve learned that nobody can be perfect all the time, so just accept it, get on with it, make best with what you’ve got and you just don’t know what’s round the corner.
“It’s like a bit of optimism but it still needs to be drummed into me. I always seem to fear the worst – that’s my natural state, really, so I have to fight against a lot of the demons. But I’m here, I’m competing and yeah, it was good!”
Rocket’s old exit strategy
Peters, who had been watching the drama unfold from the auditorium having spent the duration of the tournament by his side, was given permission by O’Sullivan to speak openly to BBC 5Live about their partnership without worry of breaking patient confidentiality.
On their initial introduction back in 2011, Peters said: “Ronnie didn’t want me to him at first but within 15 minutes we formed a link and it’s got better and better.
“He did say he was coming to the end back then but I think it was more to do with the fact that he wasn’t happy, wasn’t performing well and had lost his direction in the sport.
“His strategy was then to leave and didn’t want to torture himself for another couple of years. But in discussion with him, all he wanted to do was be happy playing again and we’re still saying that 10 years on. Of course he wants to win but not at the cost of his happiness.
“Happy people succeed in life and that was his objective. I agreed with him, so we worked on that before any age concern.”
One of O’Sullivan’s main weaknesses at the start of their partnership was how he handled the pressure he put on himself.
Peters explained: “Obviously we all have different thought processes when we approach a difficult challenge and those processes can become a habit or a behaviour and we have various coping strategies.
“One of the things Ronnie was doing when I first met him was if things got really tough and he got emotional, his exit route was to run out of the building. He literally did that at one point in a competition. It wasn’t that he was losing – more to do with the pressure he’d put on himself.
“He will go with a perfectionist approach because he’s so driven and committed. But this means he’s quite unforgiving on himself. We’ve looked at that closely because it can be a negative and a positive.
“It’s all about how you learn about your own trigger points. His main coping mechanism was avoidance whereas now he’s learned different ways of coping if his mind starts to play up.
“If someone came to me with that same coping mechanism of running away, I’d say it’s completely healthy and natural, but it might not be helpful.
“You have to look at times when it works and when it doesn’t – then we’d talk about what strategy they’d like to work with under pressure. It can vary for different circumstances and scenarios.”
One potentially alarming scenario during the final came during the third session when Trump threatened an almighty comeback by clawing his way back to 14-11 down from 12-5.
But Peters said: “Complacency isn’t something Ronnie actually struggles with. He’s always of a mindset – which we’ve worked on over the years – to stay in the moment and stay in the process of what he’s doing.
“It might be a problem for others, who perhaps lose their focus when they are leading and start thinking about the ‘what ifs’ of the situation – so it’s certainly something to warn against.
“For me I like to find people’s trigger points that are unique to the individual as it’s important for me to understand their mind.”
Ronnie’s raw emotion
O’Sullivan’s outpouring of emotions with his family and during his tearful embrace with Judd Trump came as a surprise to many onlookers who are used to seeing his laid-back attitude about results and also how he regularly talks down his achievements.
But Peters said: “It’s emotional skill to put things into perspective and then celebrate them at the right times. Obviously he’s delighted with the result and I’ve already talked to him about plans for next year.
“He’s an emotional, passionate man and people like that need to manage those feelings. I think emotions are a great thing, but you have to engage them appropriately.”
On the lengthy post-match hug with Trump, Peters added: “I get hugs too, he’s a very tactile man! Obviously, they were talking too and wanted it to remain a private conversation which is hard in a public situation like that.
“This is a unique sport. When I entered this world 10 years back I was welcomed in very openly and I found snooker players encouraged each other and there are lots of friendships. It really is a pleasant atmosphere and lots of encouragement.
“So it didn’t surprise me to see them hug and complement each other like they did.”
Ref row unjust
Controversy has never been too far away from O’Sullivan throughout his often tempestuous career and there was a flashpoint during this year’s final when referee Olivier Marteel accused him of making a gesture after a foul.
O’Sullivan replied: “‘Tell me, tell me, what did you see? You tell me what you saw. You saw nothing. Go look at the camera. You saw nothing. Don’t start.” And later told Eurosport that Marteel was ‘looking for trouble‘.
Analysing how they dealt with the incident, Peters said: “We did discuss the issue he had with the referee after the session but it was helpful that someone came into the dressing room to confirm cameras hadn’t picked up anything.
“That helped immensely – but if that hadn’t happened we’d have tried to put any feelings of injustice to one side.
“When I work with people in sport or outside, we talk about something unexpected and unwelcome happening, and I ask them what they would like to do. It’s inevitable that issues with referees or opponents will happen so we when we discuss it first, we have a programmed response. Reacting in the moment can sabotage your sport, your concentration and focus.”
Age is just a number
At 46, O’Sullivan is continually asked how many years he can go on and Peters explained there are different ways to handle the issue of age.
He said: “I’ve been privileged to work with many athletes and some of them won’t see age as a barrier – they just continue and look at performance. Others will look at the statistics and facts and say they are time limited in the event.
“Those in sports like gymnastics will tend to fade out earlier than others whereas cyclists can go on until around 40 at optimum performance.
“It all depends on whether they place their emotions and feelings on the statistics and information or whether they focus on their individual performance. They have to ask “what do I want to do and how am I going to achieve that”.
“Ronnie hasn’t been consistent with this – but that’s normal. How many times do we wake up one day feeling we can take on the world and then the next for no apparent reason we don’t think we can cope.
“You expect the mind to be fluid with how we handle life – it’s not going to be consistent. So what I try and help people to do is understand that when your mind isn’t doing what you want it to do, let’s look at how to get in the mindset that you want – and to stay there. But the mind will hijack us from time to time, so he will sometimes think ‘maybe I’m getting too old for this’.
“We address that by rewriting the statistics.”
As for whether O’Sullivan is the greatest sports person of his generation, Peters said: “Clearly someone who has been at the top of the game for around 30 years is among the greatest sports people of all time. In the last 10 years he’s been in five World Championship finals and won four of them. That’s pretty spectacular for anyone but it’s also the longevity so I’m glad he didn’t stop at 35!
“When I started working with him in 2011 I did ask him at the time if he’d be happy with two more world titles and he said he’d never win two more.
“He won the next two years and I always remind him of that! We’re being a bit greedy now but we’ll continue to be and we’re up for next year again and the one after.“
I very well remember Ronnie during the 2010/11 season. He was deeply depressed. He was struggling in his private life, fighting for the right to see his children. He was also suffering severe insomnia.
Before the World Championship, he had withdrawn from 8 PTC events, getting himself in trouble. He had not won a match in a ranking event since the 2010 World Open in september. He had lost in the first round of the Masters as well. After losing in the first round of the 2011 China Open he was feeling so low that he had wanted to withdraw from the World Championship. World Snooker asked him to take a bit of time and, maybe, reconsider. He did. His then manager, Django Fung had persuaded him to see Steve Peters …
The rest is history … AND hard work.
He lost in the QF in the 2011 World Championship, to the eventual winner, John Higgins. Given how the season had gone, this was almost miraculous. He was much more positive as well.
Right! After all this very serious, intense stuff, time to relax …
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: SNOOKER’S GREATEST SHOWMAN REVEALS HIS REAL SELF IN HISTORIC TRIUMPH AT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s great friend and Eurosport colleague Jimmy White firmly believes he can go on to win as many as 10 world titles. Why not? His game is unlikely to dramatically decline overnight. He keeps himself fit and has the natural talent to underpin the hard work he puts in. Dave Hendon reflects on O’Sullivan’s historic triumph at the Crucible and all it means for him and the sport.
BY DAVE HENDON
Sometimes it’s the ones you most expect.
Ronnie O’Sullivan came to Sheffield this year newly installed as world no.1 and chasing history. He leaves the steel city confirmed as snooker’s greatest ever player with more success surely ahead of him.
His 18-13 defeat of Judd Trump in the World Championship final made for fascinating viewing, but it was the scenes afterwards which will live long in the memory, O’Sullivan in floods of tears as he held on to Trump before hugging two of his children.
This was the real Ronnie, a big-hearted, emotional man with snooker running through his veins experiencing the dawning realisation that he had tied Stephen Hendry’s modern-day record of seven world titles. It was a moment for the ages.
Later, with typical directness, he described the whole tournament as “torture”. But for O’Sullivan, the pain is the point.
In everything he does, he goes all in. Some players, maybe most, are content to earn as decent a living as they can from snooker without ever pushing themselves to breaking point. The same cannot be said about O’Sullivan, whose love/hate relationship with a sport he has bestrode like a colossus for three decades is well documented.
When O’Sullivan goes running, he’s not out for a jog. He takes his body to its limits. In snooker, it’s his mind that is tested to the full. In 2011, beginning to struggle, he went to see Dr Steve Peters, a psychiatrist who has made his name working with sportspeople.
Dr Peters gave him practical advice about controlling his emotions, which O’Sullivan has clung to in the decade since. It has helped him not only to prolong his career but keep thriving at the very highest level.
Some in the sport complain that too many tournaments become the ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan Show’, but this really was. He was followed everywhere by a documentary crew making a film about his bid for a seventh title, which may have acted as extra motivation to focus hard on every aspect of what is needed to win snooker’s biggest event, on the table and off.
Nobody really threatened him until the last day. Dave Gilbert led him 3-0 in their first-round contest but wilted after the match was levelled. Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire could not come back after falling well behind early on. John Higgins dug in without ever playing his best snooker.
The early part of the final was disappointing as a spectacle before Trump made a fight of it. We want the showpiece match to be close as it is often how the championship is defined. But this one will be remembered for O’Sullivan’s historic feat, 21 years in the making since his first Crucible triumph in 2001.
Before the last session of that year’s final, there was a procession of former champions. Jimmy White, who famously never won the title, was also brought out on the basis that he was the ‘people’s champion’. Observing this from his dressing room, O’Sullivan resolved never to be in that position.
He was 25 and his great contemporaries, Higgins and Mark Williams, had already won the game’s most prized title. There were questions as to whether O’Sullivan’s often traumatic personal life would impinge on his chances. Did he have the discipline to last 17 days in Sheffield?
It was Higgins he beat in the final to settle all doubts. More titles followed in 2004, 2008, 2012 and, despite only playing one match all season ahead of the championship, 2013.
His defeat to Mark Selby in 2014 was a setback it took years to recover from, but he finally did by beating his arch-rival in the semi-finals of the 2020 event, on the way to winning title no.6.
And now it is seven. When O’Sullivan first burst onto the scene, many predicted he would become the youngest ever world champion. That didn’t happen, but he is now the oldest.
There is a bittersweet moment at the end of each World Championship. After the ticker-tape trophy presentation has ended and the champion leaves the arena, the backstage crew move in to dismantle the table and set. It means it is all over for another year and we are left to reflect on the 17 days just gone.
The 2022 edition was a memorable one, not just because of its historic ending. The first round brimmed with quality matches, the best of which was Kyren Wilson’s 10-8 victory over Ding Junhui.
Round two was notable for an unexpected cameo appearance by a pigeon and the longest ever frame at the Crucible. The 85-minute affair between Yan Bingtao and Selby would have made grisly viewing anywhere else, but late on in their best of 25 frame encounter was compelling.
The standout night came on the second Monday when Neil Robertson made a 147 break but was defeated 13-12 by Jack Lisowski, who then starred in another thriller in the quarter-finals, losing 13-12 to Higgins.
The ‘Class of ’92’ all reached the semi-finals, where O’Sullivan won one of the championship’s most dramatic frames on a re-spotted black to lead Higgins 10-6 overnight rather than 9-7.
The other semi between Trump and Williams looked set to fizzle out when Trump led 7-1 but the Welshman roared back to take it the full distance, proving yet again that the pay-off for long matches is the excitement of a close finish after such emotional investment from the audience.
The final was eagerly awaited, but Trump did not really show up on day one. His A-game is frightening but he did not produce it anywhere regularly enough.
However, he grew stronger on Monday afternoon as O’Sullivan began to make mistakes. A huge fluke in the last frame of session three helped leave the match tantalisingly poised at just 14-11.
But when the evening came, it was like a new match again. O’Sullivan sprinted for the winning line like a man who sensed it was his destiny.
As the prize presentation unfolded, Hendry stood by our Eurosport commentary box watching on. His record of seven world titles was set in 1999. That year he beat O’Sullivan in the semi-finals at a time when Ronnie was a somewhat troubled young man.
Back then, it seemed impossible for anyone to threaten Hendry’s title tally, or indeed any of his records. With great persistence, O’Sullivan has come for them. He says they are just numbers but there will surely be a day when he looks back on it all with genuine pride.
His great friend and Eurosport colleague Jimmy White firmly believes O’Sullivan can go on to win as many as 10 world titles. Why not? His game is unlikely to dramatically decline overnight. He keeps himself fit and has the natural talent to underpin the hard work he puts in.
Yet Hendry was never quite the same after his seventh victory. The intensity went and the titles dried up. The mental demands of top-level snooker cannot be underestimated and how many more times O’Sullivan can stand at the bottom of the mountain gazing up at the climb ahead remains to be seen.
But all that can wait for another day. For now, the glory once more belongs to Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Fly-On-The-Wall Ronnie O’Sullivan Documentary Gets Its Fairytale Ending
A year in the life of Ronnie O’Sullivan got the fairytale ending – but it won’t be the last dance for the Rocket.
The 46-year-old is being hailed as the greatest player in history after equalling Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles with an 18-13 win over Judd Trump at the Betfred World Championship.
World No1 O’Sullivan, the oldest Crucible champion, is not done yet – suggesting Hendy may only get to share the record for a year, and that he could play into his 50s and go for 10.
But the fly-on-the-wall film documentary crew that have been following him around this season were able to capture momentous moments in the iconic Sheffield arena.
Having spent years insisting records meant nothing to him, the images of an overwhelmed O’Sullivan sobbing in the arms of beaten opponent Trump and celebrating with his children told a different story.
And O’Sullivan was quick to see parallels with the film about basketball legend Michael Jordan’s last 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls that saw the NBA superstar win a sixth championship.
O’Sullivan said: “I loved that documentary The Last Dance about Jordan’s final season at the Bulls.
“And this is a bit of a dream ending to mine, the guys have been following me six or seven months. You couldn’t have envisaged this – they have had a result.
“I loved Michael’s energy, professionalism and his confidence. He knew how to get the best out of people. He let Dennis Rodman go to Las Vegas for a few days because he needed it.
“Then he didn’t come back so he had to get on a plane and go and get him. It was a great insight, there were so many different characters.
“It’s harder in an individual sport, definitely. I said to Steve Peters that I wished I was in a team sport. At least then you can take a week off or be rested for a bit.
“You can have that relationship with your manager where you can kind of pick and choose when to play. In an individual sport you’re kind of forced to play even if you feel you don’t want to.
“So it’s tougher, but I chose this sport and there’s not a lot I can do about it now.
“I’m good with pressure so having the crew around wasn’t an issue. In some ways, it might have inspired me. And things just seem to work out – so I’m not surprised that it ended like that.
“And it wasn’t all Sheffield, hopefully a load of it gets in there.
“In Llandudno they asked me what I normally do and I said ‘I go out running at eight in the morning, if it’s p**sing down with rain I’m still going out’.
“They got in the car and followed me, and got me running up the Orme – and it was p**sing down. Whatever I have done, they have followed me. Everything has been as it is.”
O’Sullivan again recognised the huge part sports psychiatrist Steve Peters has played in his career. Four of his world titles have come since Peters stopped him quitting in 2011.
And despite the torrents of praise and acclaim coming his way, the Rocket claims he is not and never will be ‘the greatest’.
He added: “If it hadn’t have been for Steve Peters I would probably be in some hot country like Portugal living in a nice beach house and coming to the UK once every six weeks to see my family.
“The size of winning the seventh title and the enormity of it is so important to everybody- and I can feel that.
“But I don’t consider myself the greatest ever at all. There are a lot of players out there that I wish I had elements of their game in my game. I try to develop my game on what they do better than me.
“I just enjoy playing, enjoy competing. Does it really matter who’s the greatest? To me it doesn’t.
“We all make this sport fantastic. You guys in the media, the players, the officials. It’s just great to be at the high end of your sport.
“I won’t consider myself the greatest even if I win eight, not at all. There are a lot of players out there that I wish I had elements of their game in my game. I try to develop my game on what they do better than me.
“I just enjoy playing, enjoy competing. Does it really matter who’s the greatest? To me it doesn’t.
We all make this sport fantastic. You guys, the players, the officials. It’s just great to be at the high end of your sport.
“I won’t consider myself the greatest even if I win eight, not at all. I don’t want to be considered the greatest. I want to be known as someone who loves snooker and loves playing.
“I have a love/hate relationship with the game because I hate it when I’m not performing well.
“When I’m playing all right I get a great buzz out of it and enjoy it. I’m able to cope with not playing well better than I used to.”
The video, shared by Betfred, shows Rob Walker, John Virgo and Shaun Murphy reflect on the championship, the class on 92, funny and awkward moments, interviews with the champion, the Crucible staff, Barry Hearn and more … It’s really good stuff!
It’s the last year of the Betfred sponsorship. You know my views on gambling and my worries about how much snooker still relies on the betting industry for sponsoring, but I must say the Betfred hospitality was always fantastic through the years at the Crucible.
‘This is the start of the journey’ – Victoria Shi explains the incredible success of her snooker academy and why there is more to come
Phil Haigh Tuesday 15 Mar 2022
It has been a remarkable, trophy-laden time for the players of Victoria’s Academy, Sheffield and meeting the driving force behind the set-up, it is easy to see why the place has become littered with champions.
The season so far has been an unpredictable one, with tournament winners springing out of nowhere and none has been more surprising than 21-year-old Fan Zhengyi when he exploded out of the woodwork to win the European Masters.
Zhao Xintong, 24, was a more predictable success story, but still, his immense performance to win the UK Championship was a shock, as was his 9-0 demolition of Yan Bingtao to win the German Masters the following month.
Yan himself has not pawed any silverware this season, but the 22-year-old announced himself as one of the game’s elite just last year when he won the Masters in seriously impressive fashion; the Tiger mauling the great John Higgins in a memorable final.
The talented trio are three of the regular faces at Victoria’s Academy, the inconspicuous former office space in Sheffield city centre that is their practice base, but being a part of the academy provides much more than just a handful of tables and a little kitchen.
Victoria Shi runs the academy, but she also runs the careers and even lives of the young men who knock balls around under her watchful eye. Renting their accommodation to them, sorting their travel, hotels, tournament entries and helping them with any number of things that a teenager arriving in the UK from China might need assistance with.
The former journalist is not just there for logistics and arguably her most important role is the players’ chief motivator, source of inspiration and whip cracker when it comes to hard work and their attitude to practice.
‘I always say to them, “You’re lucky being a snooker player.” I think attitude is so important,’ Victoria told Metro.co.uk. ‘They’ve come a long way from China, it’s a different culture. Their life is to be a snooker player and I say, “If you don’t want to be a snooker player, work a night shift somewhere, then you’ll be back.” I always say to them, “With your attitude you will be sacked the next day in a normal job.” But I always make sure they’re happy.
‘Snooker like all sports, results do the talking, that’s my motivation no matter what. To help them to achieve. Even Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao, if I don’t see them one day I ask where they’ve been and tell them they need to come back. Sometimes they say they need one day rest after an event because they’re tired and I say okay, but I’ll keep asking where they are.’
Victoria was previously a journalist covering snooker, then managed players, working with a string of top stars, including three years with Ding Junhui, and she has learned plenty about the necessary mindset to succeed on the baize. Something she is always trying to impart on her players.
‘We talk after their matches to discuss the match,’ she explained. ‘If they lose I just say, “Look, know what you’ve done wrong and don’t repeat the same mistake. Work harder on your weakness on the practice table.”
‘I also talk to them during matches. Tell them to be patient. Players after they miss a ball, they think, “I never miss that in training, why did I miss?” But anyone can miss, the most important thing is to move on. Most players have another chance and miss again because they’re thinking about the last one. I say to my players, “I’d rather your head be like wood. Don’t think.” Most snooker players don’t play well because they overthink.
‘You have to work hard. If you don’t work hard then don’t ask for success. I can’t pot one ball, I never play, but I can look after them the best thanks to all my experiences.
‘I worked with Terry Griffiths before, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie [O’Sullivan] always helps me, gives me a lot of advice. That’s the reason, I always tell my players to be patient, control what you can control, don’t bother with your opponent. Every time you lost a match it’s 100 per cent your fault, not the others, because you have chances. I’m always honest to them.’
The relationship is multi-faceted, with Victoria acting as the players’ manager, agent, landlord and, in many ways as a mother figure. Before this chat she scolded the newly crowned European Masters champion for not hanging his coat up on a recently installed hook in the academy. Fan dutifully moved his jacket to the correct place and got back to practicing.
‘Of course [I feel like they’re my children]. If they’re not happy, I know,’ she said. ‘I just ask them, “Are you okay?” Sometimes they’re a little bit shy but I say that I know already. They’re shocked that I know, but I say, “I’m like a shadow.”
‘They tell me everything. If they split up with their girlfriend, they tell me and I say, “Okay, just move on, if you play well you have more choice. Just focus on snooker. Snooker never betrays you. Don’t worry.”
‘They work hard but I sort everything else: book tickets, visas, hotels, cleaner for their house, they just play snooker.
‘Today my job is getting boarding passes, customs, preparing hotel. Normally when they leave to go to the airport I give them all the documents. Lots goes on behind the scenes: doing their entries, booking practice tables, renew their hotel when they win, I do everything.’
The academy has been running for seven years, but things are really starting to pick up now in terms of titles, while other players in the stable such as Zhang Anda, Si Jiahui and England’s Ashley Hugill are seeing performances improve as well.
On her star students, Victoria said: ‘Bingtao has always been a very good player anyway, but Xintong has just become so mature recently.
‘During Covid they couldn’t do much socially anymore so it was just their flat and here for practice every day. I think that made him realise, “What else can I do?” Just play snooker.
‘I think at 24 he thought, “I need to deliver” because everyone talked about how good he is, but I told him he needs to show it on the table. Everyone talked about Xintong but Yan was the one winning, so I said, “Prove to yourself rather than just the talking.”
‘He was inspired by what Yan was doing. We knew he’s capable and he proved it at the UK Championship and I’m so happy for him. He was unplayable and I said to him after the UK, “You need to work even harder, prove to people you’re not a flash in the pan.” Then he won the German because he realised it.
‘After he won the UK people said it might be like winning the lottery, but if he won more then he’d be an established winner. He works even harder now because he enjoyed his success. All the snooker players dream of that since they started and it’s made him work harder and practice harder because he finally tasted success and enjoyed it. When they started playing snooker as children, this is what they wanted and they’ve got it.’
No one was backing the 750/1 shot Fan at the European Masters, but Victoria was not surprised by his amazing run to the title, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final, as she has seen the hours of practice he has been putting in, inspired by his pals’ success.
‘Fan Zhengyi has seen their success and last four or five months he’s been in 8am till 5 or 6pm every day and it’s paid off,’ she said. ‘Work hard, see the success and work even harder. He sees it’s paid off so wants to do more and he’s only 21!
‘Hopefully Zhang Anda is the next one, but Si Jiahui won the WSF Open and will be pro next season, so hopefully he could be the next one as well. Of course, Fan, Yan, Zhao will become established winners because they become more greedy. They all get inspired because they see each other every day, practice together and know that if they can, I can.
‘Zhang Anda, I say to him, “Look everyone’s achieved, you’ve been to the Crucible three times before they even came. You can do it.” Now he says, “I think I can, I’m ready.” I love it, they all inspire each other. I always encourage them, I believe that if you have problems, resolve it.’
One problem for the academy could have been the battering Zhao dished out to Yan in Berlin, crunching his mate 9-0 in the German Masters final, which could have left a frosty atmosphere between the two.
No such thing happened and the pair are still great friends, with Victoria dishing out her typically blunt advice to the wounded Tiger.
‘I told him: “You can’t get any more humiliated, so now just move on. Next time you can have no fear of playing anyone because what’s worse? You’ve done the worst. Just move on rather than thinking about it.”’
It has been an immense year or so for the talented lads of Victoria’s Academy, but it seems that this is no phase, with the boss insistent that they will be bringing more and more silverware back to South Yorkshire. Possibly they may not even have to leave the county to pick it up.
‘I say to them now, “Forget about what’s happened, focus on the next one.” I want them to win more, hopefully win the Worlds. Play one frame at a time and dream big, work hard. I say to the others, “If they can, you can.”
‘We trust each other and they know I will help them no matter what, we’re all going in the same direction.
‘We want to win more. This is just the start of the journey. That’s what Ronnie said to Zhao Xintong after he won the UK Championship, your snooker career is only starting now. Fan is only 21, we’ll make sure he wins more, work even harder, he knows that one is not enough.’
It’s tough to doubt that there will be more glory to come, with Victoria’s recipe for success in Sheffield proving to be irresistible.
I traveled to Chima with my camera in 2012. I went to the Shanghai Masters and to an APTC in Yixing. There were lots of young Chinese players competing in that event. Amongst them, Lyu Haotian. Back then, he was seen as the most promising prospect in his generation. He was only 14, and tiny. He was getting the best possible help but he was also put under huge pressure. Every match he played was taped on video, analysed, debriefed. He was still a child but this wasn’t childhood. A few weeks later he reached the QFs at the International Championship. He qualified for the main Tour by winning the under-21 IBSF World Championship in July 2013.
I remember him arriving on the main tour at the start of the next season, all smiles, wearing bright colours… but it went all wrong. After some success in his first year, his game deteriorated, his confidence looked shattered. He later revealed that he felt lonely, disoriented, and never learned English properly. The place were he lived was arsoned, he could very easily have died there. He was beaten up in the streets of Sheffield. I suspect that he was hanging around in the wrong places with the wrong people. When he arrived to play his first match at the World Chapionship qualifiers in 2015, I saw him come out of the car and though that he might be drunk. He was a shadow of the bright boy I had seen in Yixing.
He was relegated, returned to China and didn’t want to play snooker anymore for a long time.
Now, at 24, he’s back on the main tour, but the spark is gone. He will probably never fulfill his potential.
Why am I telling this story? Because it illustrates how important the work Victoria puts into her academy is: she is the anchor of so many young lads, she offers much more than a practice place. I can’t help thinking that Lyu’s life would have been very different, much happier, safer and more successful if such place had been available to him ten years ago, if someone had looked after him like Victoria looks after her players. She is a snooker manager, but she is much more than that. She cares about her players, as human beings. She wants them to develop in every aspect, not just at the table, and that’s the key of her, and their, successes.
Sam Craigie echoes Ronnie O’Sullivan: Snooker can be a ‘a recipe for depression’
Phil Haigh Tuesday 15 March 2022
Sam Craigie has described a career for snooker players outside the elite as ‘a recipe for depression,’ echoing the thoughts of Ronnie O’Sullivan, who said that is why he would not encourage his own son to take up the sport.
Craigie is the world number 41, an excellent player on the way up in the game, but the winning feeling is still hard to come by, even for someone at his position in the top half of the world rankings.
The 28-year-old has been to just one ranking quarter-final in his unbroken stint on the professional tour since 2016 and he says the constant hunt for improvement, with few results to celebrate can feel like torture.
‘I don’t really love snooker, I’m not really a snooker maniac,’ Craigie told the WST Podcast. ‘It’s just something I’m good at and there’s a living to be made from it. It’s the same as going to work.
‘It just gets under your skin, looking to perfect something that can’t be perfected when you go to practice.
‘You’re never happy and there’s always something to work on. I think that’s the reason I play, just trying to get better.
‘You do [enjoy it] when you’re playing well. Sometimes winning isn’t enjoyable. Playing well is the best feeling in the world, but how often does that happen?
‘I think it’s like a recipe for depression, it really is.
‘Anyone around my position in the rankings or lower, you’re always losing and it’s just bloody torture half the time.’
O’Sullivan has made the same point before, somewhat controversially, saying that he would not encourage his own son, or other youngsters into snooker.
While it ruffled some feathers that the six-time world champion was speaking of his chosen sport in that manner, he has spoken about the issues of the lower-ranked players, both mental and financial.
‘I’ll be honest with you, if I had a son I would not let him play snooker so maybe it is a good thing there isn’t the opportunity for him to play snooker,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport at the Scottish Open in December.
‘I’d rather he played golf, football, tennis. I’d rather he played curling, I’m only joking! Personally if I had a child [that wanted to take up snooker] I would not want him to play snooker I really wouldn’t.
‘I’m not talking about the winners. I’m talking about the guys that are ranked 60, 70 in the world that are struggling. It’s not good for them. If you compared the 125th golfer and what he earns and the 125th snooker player then he’d make a million dollars on the golf tour. You can afford to miss a few cuts because you can make enough money to offset the losses you might make.
‘One way you could maybe remedy it is at least give the first round losers their expenses. A lot of these guys have not got the money. It’s unfair.’
In another interview with Eurosport last year, the Rocket spoke in similar terms to Craigie on the hours spent on the practice table – which he considers an unhealthy environment – which can be a mental strain when the rewards don’t materialise.
‘Everybody is at different stages of their careers,’ he said. ‘When you are in your pomp, and getting victories, trophies and are at number one you don’t mind taking the snooker depression because you think I’m getting rewarded for it.
‘But if you are putting that effort in and aren’t getting anything back, getting beaten in the first, second and third rounds all the time, and it’s still leaving you feeling like s**t, it’s a lot harder to take and handle.
‘I don’t think it’s healthy to be in a room hitting balls for four, five and six hours. That’s what snooker players generally do.’
Players at all levels of the professional game can struggle with mental health problems, with current world champion Mark Selby speaking openly about his ongoing issues.
Many others have spoken out about poor mental health in recent years, including Gary Wilson, Dave Gilbert and Mitchell Mann, and have all seen things improve as a result. Hopefully talking about problems continues to be a route to recovery.
When Ronnie said those things he was crucified by many, allegedly damaging the sport that made him rich and discouraging kids to play snooker. Ronnie never said that kids shouldn’t play snoooker, his problem is with snooker as a profession, and it’s not about those at the top, it’s about all the others who struggle to just make a living out of it but without whom the circuit wouldn’t exist. They are the majority.
It’s courageous from Craigie to say those things, and it’s great fom Phil Haig to give him a voice in the media. The idea that “trophies are eveything and sport should be chosen just for the love of it” is a myth. The reality is that it’s also a job, and there are bills to pay, and food to be brought to the table. Sam has a young family, he has responsibilities towards them. His kids won’t live solely on thin air and dad’s rosy dreams. He knows it and it’s hard.
As for Ronnie, I totally understand his position. I wouldn’t want my children to embrace a profession that will, most likely, not allow them to earn a decent living despite the hard works they put in it. I would not want them to take a job that actually costs them, and puts them under extreme mental pressure. No parent in their right mind would want that.
The answer of course is that snooker needs to change, so that the prize money structure needs to be less top heavy, so that first round losers get a minimal wage, covering their basic expenses. Only then it will be able to truly grow.