Eurosport looking at the 10 best long potters

Yesterday, Desmond Kane was looking at the 10 best long potters.

All-time top 10: Who are snooker’s greatest long potters?

In the second of our weekly series, we look at the 10 greatest players in each department of snooker finishing with the Greatest Of All Time. We continue by looking at the game’s finest long potters.

1. Judd Trump (England)

Judd Trump

Judd Trump, with more potting ability than Percy Thrower, perhaps edges out Neil Robertson on the all-time long list for what he provided in the 2019 World Championship final. An 18-9 win over John Higgins was staggering enough, outmanoeuvring one of the game’s true titans, but the manner of the victory was probably the greatest levels ever reached on the sport’s grandest stage.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Bristolian. At one point, Trump seemed to be playing on autopilot, like the pockets were craters. Higgins has witnessed as much as anybody in the sport over 28 years, but was flabbergasted by the green baize hurting bombs TNT Trump unloaded over a bewitching two days.

It was breathless, incomparable one-visit snooker, including seven centuries and nine breaks over 50, in lifting his first world title in the final as he turned the Crucible Theatre into his own living room. With 12 or 13 frames won at a single visit, Higgins was privileged to be on the receiving end: “He doesn’t just overwhelm the opponent, he overwhelms the snooker table. I don’t think there’s been quite a player like him.”

Trump can pot balls, create angles and get movement on the cueball like no other player. He is quickly becoming the all-rounder with a tactical approach enhancing his wares, but it is his opportunism to create from distance that ultimately creates carnage.

If there has ever been a better long potter in snooker, one does not immediately spring to mind.

2. Neil Robertson (Australia)

Neil Robertson

Robertson forged his reputation as a formidable potter when he attempted to make it as a professional on the UK-based professional circuit three times in the late nineties and early noughties before returning to Australia out of pocket and out of form. When he eventually regained his own self-belief by winning the World Under-21 Championship in New Zealand in July 2003, including a victory over a teenage Ding Junhui, he would not be denied a fourth time. He remains a devastating, preening potter at his best, but has added a substantial tactical game to support his adroitness from beyond the balk line.

With one of the best all-round games in the sport’s history, the 2010 world champion Robertson remains as dangerous when he is lining up pots at distance as among them from close range. He holds the record for most centuries in a season with his haul of 103 in 2013/14 – a totemic moment in snooker folklore.

Only Ronnie O’Sullivan (1038), Stephen Hendry (778), John Higgins (772) and Judd Trump (712) have made more career centuries than Robertson’s 701. Like those four icons, the Aussie likes to provide for himself.

Which is perhaps understandable when he almost failed at the sport he lives and breathes.

Projecting a flawless technique, there is arguably no better long potter in the game than the Melbourne Potting Machine, a committed vegan who smells blood on a snooker table.

3. Mark Williams (Wales)

Mark Williams

Described as the best single ball potter in the history of the sport by his peers, Williams has spent 28 years at the very top of the game because of an enviable long game that enables him to dictate the narrative of a frame. He is not nicknamed the Welsh Potting Machine because of a reputation for tactical torpidity despite his innate ability to win at any cost.

Williams has lifted three world titles in 2000, 2003 and 2018 based on a penchant for snaffling up half chances. Only Williams, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis have won the world title, Masters and UK Championship in a single season, but the man from Cwm in Blaenau Gwent arguably did it in a more taxing era.

He remains in esteemed company. “Long potting is all about confidence, and good eyesight,” he said.

“Think positive. If you’re feeling down or lacking a bit of confidence, your game goes. You start thinking about the balls you might miss more than the ones you are going to pot. “

At the age of 45, Williams has never been blighted by the fatigue of frames. Nor does he appear ready to slip quietly into the night.

4. Ronnie O’Sullivan (England)


O’Sullivan’s game has become more measured in recent years, but his all-round approach has always been supported by his ability to pounce on half chances from distance. He has never been overly keen on waiting for opponents to make errors, preferring to splatter the reds and limit long exacting frames with one-visit snooker.

The five-times word champion has produced a series of devastating sessions, but his 6-0 whitewash of an unsuspecting Ricky Walden in the quarter-finals of the Masters on the road to winning the 2014 invitational tournament among his overall total of seven was as close as you will see to green baize utopia. O’Sullivan was knocking in balls like he was playing on a pool table. O’Sullivan rolled in a record 556 points without reply, beating the 495 points set by Ding Junhui in 2007.

“Probably the best performance I have seen from anybody in all the years I’ve been coming to the Masters,” said 1997 world champion Ken Doherty. Of course, it is impossible to maintain such levels on every occasion, but O’Sullivan ranks high among the greatest long potters in the history of the sport.

When he gets it right, nobody does it better.

5. Stephen Hendry (Scotland)

Stephen Hendry

It is easy to forget how imperious Hendry was in his pomp. Such was his self-belief and dominance of the sport that he rarely became embroiled in tactical duels. While his great rival Steve Davis was more concerned about not leaving shots, Hendry was focused on making them.

It was a mindset that proved key in ending Davis’ dominance of the sport in the early 1990s. Hendry pioneered the new breed of attacking snooker player that we witness today when you study the world’s leading men. There was nobody like Hendry in the late 1980s or the 1990s. His one-visit approach would see him smash open the pack of reds as soon as possible with the blue to middle bag at pace to open up the table or controlled blacks a particular favourite of his canon. It was a manoeuvre that helped him to transform the game.

Hendry was a fearsome, focused sight on a snooker table bolstered by a razor sharp game from long range. He once compiled a 147 to overcome Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-8 in the final of the Charity Challenge in 1997 after his opponent had recovered from trailing 8-2 to restore parity at 8-8. Hendry’s long potting was the main stanchion of his snooker success. He had problems with technique that contributed to a steady decline in the noughties before he retired in 2012. He was also unwilling to fraternise with a safety game that could have extended his lifespan like Davis or O’Sullivan.

Yet it is astonishing to think of what his success might have been when he largely refused to see extended safety bouts as helpful to his cause. That all seven of his world crowns were donned in the nineties is also fascinating.

Hendry remains the winner of the most world titles in the modern era. His long potting was a key component behind his stockpile of silverware.

6. Shaun Murphy (England)

Murphy lifted the 2005 World Championship at the age of 22 as a 150-1 qualifier with a performance heavy on long pots and low on safety. Like Stephen Hendry, safety has never really been Murphy’s law. Sometimes when you study Murphy in action, you wonder how he has contrived to win only a solitary world title.
He has a ramrod straight technique, among the best snooker has paid testament to, that allows him to generate power and pace through the cue ball from distance. While a lack of a safety game and odd lapses in concentration has arguably harpooned his quest for greater riches, his potting ability has never been in doubt.
Murphy apparently toyed with the idea of retirement after a barren 2019, but has emerged a stronger figure for his travails lifting the China Championship and Welsh Open this season to increase his career haul to nine ranking event triumphs.
“There are times when the occasion gets the better of you. This time it all clicked,” said Murphy after demolishing Kyren Wilson 9-1 to lift the Welsh Open in February.

“It is dangerous to put too much stock on how you play. There is a small part of the mind that thinks about how you win rather than the winning itself and that can be very dangerous. However, it was nice to allow myself a little moment of enjoying the way I won and the performance in that match.”

7. John Higgins (Scotland)

John Higgins

Higgins merits a place in the pantheon of potters for his range of skills on a snooker table. Renowned as a formidable tactical player, mastering the safety side of the game is only beneficial if you can score heavily.

Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan studied Stephen Henry’s fixation with one-visit snooker, and arguably improved it, adding their own class to the theory of potting a long red, finishing plum on the black before devouring the balls to win frames with minimal fuss.

Higgins remains a devastating long potter. Armed with a technique made to weather the buffeting storms of self-doubt, the stats would back up his success. He has lifted four world titles with victories over Ken Doherty, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump illustrating an enduring class in all aspects of the game. He has also reached the last three world finals to roll back the years as much as the blacks.

To be a contender at the Crucible over three decades tells the story of a very special potter.

8. Alex Higgins (Northern Ireland)

Alex Higgins

Higgins stood out in the 1970s and 1980s surrounded by figures who were addicted to a percentage, tactical game such as Ray Reardon and Steve Davis. Higgins was also a fine safety player, but was a prodigious potter whose vibe was one of unpredictability. He was more interested in amusing himself and delighting the public with a unique brand of attacking snooker than reverting to the trenches.

While there are arguably more consistent potters in modern snooker than Higgins, it should not be underestimated the level of credibility the Northern Irishman brought to the green baize at the beginning of the televised era. Without Higgins, the mass market appeal of snooker would never have gained traction in the early days of television coverage.

His Hurricane nickname fitted with his ability to race through pots and frames without much thought. His break in the 1982 World Championship semi-final against Jimmy White shows how good a single ball potter Higgins was.

Higgins won two world titles, against John Spencer in 1972 and Ray Reardon in 1982, but the second was the solitary world trophy he carried off at the Crucible. In the semi-finals against Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White, he trailed 15-14 and 59-0 when he came to the table. On the cusp of defeat, he produced a series of unbelievable pots

“It was a mental break, it was phenomenal,” said White. “I didn’t think he would clear up, no. There were about four shots he played that were amazing. His name was on the trophy that year. Did it cost me the World Championship? At that time I didn’t care if I won or lost because I was having such fun. In 1979 and 1980, I went to Australia to play in the amateur World Championship which cost me two years of experience at the Crucible. Who knows? Maybe it was meant to be because I’m still playing now.”

That Higgins could do it under pressure and under the influence of several libations is even more impressive.

9. Jimmy White (England)

Jimmy White

Jimmy White will be recalled as snooker’s nearly man, but the same cannot be said for his potting ability in his prime. White lost six world finals in the 1980s and 1990s, but it is worth noting that he lost four of them to Stephen Hendry and another one to Steve Davis, two of the greatest players to play the game.

If not for those two pesky characters, White’s long game would have delivered multiple world titles, and he would have merited them. His potting ability was not hugely inferior to Davis or Hendry in their halcyon days. It was probably a bit less consistency in scoring, safety and temperament that did for him over a longer period of time. But the Whirlwind was a firm favourite with the snooker public because he played the game to entertain.

Like Alex Higgins, he was a pioneer of attacking play from long range. As a winner of the Masters in 1984 and the UK Championship in 1992, his place in the all-time list of prominent potters must respect his era as well as his role in the sport’s progression.

10. Cliff Wilson (Wales)

Cliff Wilson

A player ahead of his time and after his time. Wilson was a ferocious potter, who played at breakneck speed and put the emphasis firmly on entertainment. At the age of 54, he was remarkably ranked at 14 in the world in 1988 despite battling fading eyesight and ill health. There are certainly more consistent candidates to include in a top 10 of out-and-out potters, but Wilson stood out in his era, and provided his successors with a blueprint on a different way to approach the game.

From Tredegar, the same Welsh town as six-times world champion Ray Reardon, Wilson won the Welsh Amateur Championship in 1956, 1977 and 1978, but worked in the steelworks at Llanwern until he turned professional at the age of 45 after claiming the World Amateur Championship in 1978. He usurped Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-8 in the 1992 UK Championship two years before his premature death at the age of 60 due to ill health. He was once coached by the great Joe Davis, but probably played snooker in the wrong era.

If Wilson was a twentysomething today, he would be a clear and present danger.

Desmond Kane

Where to start with this one?

Well, maybe, with this question: how do you define excellence in long potting? It’s not as straightforward as it reads.

Judd Trump and Neil Robertson, the two players topping this list, go for and get a fair percentage of difficult, and spectacular long pots.  However, if you pay attention to stats, they often have a lower long pot success rate than their opponents. If you don’t believe me, open your eyes and ears whenever snooker is back and they play. This, of course, is because they go for more, and more difficult ones than most others on the tour. Also, both of them have tremendous cue power and frequently play in such a way that the cue ball comes back to relative safety in the baulk area. Therefore, they aren’t punished that often when they miss. What we, fans, tend to remember most, are the misses that proved costly. Shaun Murphy also has a similar style.

Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Ronnie are different. Stephen and Ronnie in particular were/are very attacking, they go for a lot, they didn’t/don’t want to be caught in long drawn out affairs. But, contrary to the ones above, they almost always play for position as well as attempting the pot. Usually, playing either for black or blue. Because of this, they know that they will likely be punished, should they miss. That adds a lot of pressure. As mentioned in the above article, confidence is a huge factor in long potting success, and pressure will always play on your mind, no matter how good you are. In the last year and a half, Judd Trump has also been playing that way more often than he used to do.

A lot of players are fearless when young, and as they age, battle scars undermine their confidence. That was blatant with Stephen Hendry, and it happened as early as in his late twenties. I can’t help to believe that his defeat to Ken Doherty in the 1997 World Final was a turning point in Hendry’s career. He won only one major after that and he was only 28. He won his last World Championship at 30, the age Judd Trump is now, played for another 12 seasons and won only five more titles, none of them “majors”. I’m convinced that losing to Ken that year, and the way of it, delivered a killing blow to Stephen’s confidence, and effectively to his career at the very top. He still remained a top player for years, but no more a serial winner. Think about it this way: Stephen made 5 centuries in that final, his highest break was 137, whilst Ken highest break was 85. Yet, eventually, Ken won by 18-12; the match wasn’t even really close. His all-attack strategy, and “safety is overrated” moto hadn’t worked. Ken had shown that he could be beaten and how.

A  lot of very young players are excellent long potters because they have very few battle scars. Other parts of their game may let them down, but usually potting in general isn’t the issue.

One player who, IMO, should be in the list above is Kyren Wilson.

Then you have this weird concept of “single ball potter” that inevitably comes in the conversation when Mark Williams is mentioned. I write “weird” because potting just one ball isn’t really an efficient approach in snooker. What it means in Willo’s case is that, more often than most, he goes for a ball, without intending to gain position. What he wants is to gain the initiative, and control over the next shot, often combined with getting rid of a “danger” ball, one that could possibly give his opponent an opening.



The BBC will show snooker come April


Following the BBC annoucements on social media, WST has published this:

The BBC will televise some great Betfred World Championship matches from years gone by during the dates of what would have been this year’s tournament.

The London 2012 Olympics and Euro ’96 are just some of the other memorable moments that viewers on the BBC can relive this summer after the coronavirus pandemic decimated the sporting calendar. For more detail CLICK HERE

The Betfred World Championship would have run from April 18 to May 4 but has been postponed, potentially until July or August.

We’ll also be reliving some magical Crucible moments from the past 40 years on our social media channels – for a taster click here.

Well at least that’s something…


Ronnie’s podcast with Colin Murray

Ronnie was supposed to do this podcast “live” in Sheffield on March 16, but due to the current crisis the podcast was eventually recorded without an audiience.

And now it is available here

Five questions are randomly “taken” from a deck of carts and Ronnie had to answer them.

It’s a quite relaxed and nice interview.  He is a short “teaser”

  1. Ronnie’s unkown hero … is his mate George
  2. Best sporting venue is … Goffs
  3. Two minutes he hates to remember … when he forfeited his match agaoinst at the UK in 2006
  4. Something nobody knows about him … I let you discover
  5. Most hated sport … not really one eventually but curling came in the conversation

And, finally, happiness is in the simple things.

Enjoy …

And this is Colin’s report on the experience…

Colin Murray: Ronnie O’Sullivan’s simple route to happiness a timely inspiration for us all

Content: O’Sullivan is in a happy place, unlike when he stormed out of his match against Hendry in 2006 (below) PICTURES: GETTY/SPORTSBEAT

THERE are a dozen big sporting names who were unfortunate enough to spend their very last moments before isolation in the company of yours truly. Poor sods.

Although, before you feel too much sympathy for them, it should be noted they were all paid to do so.

My new independent, sponsored podcast was meant to be in front of live audiences over a period of four weeks, but ended up being bashed out in well-sterilised, empty rooms in just four days.

The format of ‘Colin Murray’s 52’ is simple. A deck of playing cards, hidden questions on each of them and, by and large, the selected five-card hand forms the basis of the entire interview.

The result? More unpredictable handbrake turns than the World Joyriding Championships, and I’m really chuffed with it.

Snooker’s greatest Ronnie O’Sullivan was my first guinea pig, and had to handle everything from ‘who is your non-famous hero?’ to ‘what is one thing about you nobody knows?’. The answer to the latter, by the way, was ****ing funny.

Ronnie quits UK 2006

Before long, the cards asked him, ‘what two minutes of your career would you hate to relive?’, and the Rocket’s memory shot back in a flash to December 2006.

‘When I walked out on the match against Stephen Hendry,’ he recalled. ‘I played him in the UK Championship and I was just going through a hard time off the table.

‘Things were alright but my brain just wasn’t into the snooker.

‘It was first to nine, I was 4-1 down, and I couldn’t pot a ball anyway. I missed a shot and just shook his hand and walked out of the venue.

‘I wanted to do it three or four matches previous to that. I just didn’t want to be out there. It was off-the-table problems and I wasn’t able to deal with it.

‘I didn’t want to be on display, really. I felt lonely out there, whether I was winning or losing.’

This season, Ronnie has been choosing his tournaments wisely, and that may be the reason a buoyant O’Sullivan has landed beside me, anti-bacterial gel at the ready.

‘This year I’ve done everything I shouldn’t. Didn’t practice, didn’t play in enough tournaments, but I look back and don’t regret one bit of it,’ O’Sullivan added.

‘Your mental health and your happiness, spending time with your family and loved ones, I do believe is the most important thing. It’s like the roots of the tree, you know.’

This unpredictable format seemed to suit Ronnie, and it was the most enjoyable half hour I’ve spent in his company, primarily due to this happy place he has been able to find — a place that has not always been easy for him to locate.

So, when asked to define happiness, through his 44-year-old eyes, his answer was not just encouraging, but also topical, as most of us face an extended period of time indoors in extraordinary circumstances, and others much more serious upheaval.

‘Happiness, I think is simplicity — when I realised it wasn’t in winning or material items.

‘The first step for me was to stop drinking and puffing, then running was a massive endorphin rush.

‘All I have to do is spend £100 on a pair of trainers that last me six months, put on a tatty pair of shorts, an old vest, run for an hour through Epping Forest and I feel brilliant.

‘It’s fantastic and cheap! None of the material things made me feel as happy. For me, to find true happiness is staying fit, eating well and not trying to get these material items.’

With an ace of a chat in the bag and an elbow bump, off flies the Rocket, with the likes of Chris Waddle, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Tony Bellew, Graeme Swann and more following closely behind him.

So, if you fancy some unpredictable, original material over the next five weeks, Colin Murray’s 52 is already out now in all usual podcast places. I promise you, thanks to guests like Ronnie, it is not a busted flush.


Hector Nunns interviews Ronnie over corona virus and how the Chinese players feel being stuck in the UK

Ronnie was interviewed by Hector Nunns. He explains that the Chinese players are longing to go back home and don’t trust the UK government over the way they handle the situation. He also explains why he started doing fist bumps.

Here is the interview:

Ronnie O’Sullivan warns Chinese players could snub UK over ‘crazy’ Boris Johnson

O’Sullivan says Chinese players ‘don’t feel safe’ in the UK amid coronavirus pandemic, telling him Prime Minister ‘doesn’t know what he’s doing’

Ronnie O’Sullivan fears snooker’s Chinese stars are set to black-ball the UK over the coronavirus.

The game’s superstar could have played his last match this season with the chances of next month’s World Championship taking place increasingly bleak.

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan, 44, is a hero to many of the UK-based contingent from the Far East – where the outbreak started in Wuhan.

While China’s drastic lockdown, quarantine and travel measures were highly controversial, the number of new cases there has started to fall.

O’Sullivan said: “A lot of the Chinese players have gone back to China or are itching to go back – they don’t feel safe here.


Ronnie O’Sullivan said he knows UK-based Chinese players who are desperate to go back to the Far East (Image: Getty Images)

“I have been in contact with a lot of my Chinese friends out there to see how they are and they were on total lockdown.

“And I have had Chinese players say to me ‘Your prime minister doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s crazy’. I don’t know myself and can’t really comment, but this is what I am hearing.

“They have all got a bit scared and some have gone and others are desperate to, because that’s where they feel safe, and feel like their country is doing what it should be doing.

“And it’s hard to see how players like that will be playing in the World Championship.”

O’Sullivan was mocked in many quarters for refusing to shake hands with opponents and referees at tournaments on health grounds last year before the coronavirus outbreak.

But recent events have shown his actions in a different light, with such behaviour now very much the new norm.

He added: “People were all saying I was mad and this and that, but maybe you look now and think ‘he’s not so mad or crazy after all’.

“I have always been a bit OCD with germs, I don’t open door handles either and use hand tissues as well as starting doing the fist-bumps instead of handshakes last year.

“It was another player Jack Lisowski who got me thinking about that. He beat cancer as a teenager, and had to be very careful with his immune system compromised, avoiding picking up germs.

“I was always getting colds and so I started doing some of the things he was doing and haven’t really had a cold or germs since, so maybe there is something in it.”

Hector today on twitter was insisting that WST should take a decision very quicly regarding the World Championship and announce it now, so that the Chinese players can make their decision knowingly.

For the reasons I developped yesterday, the only sensible decision at this stage would be to cancel it completely.

Barry Hearn seriously considering the “closed doors” option for the World Championship

This was published today by Sports Business

Hearn calls for closed-door sports events during coronavirus outbreak

Barry Hearn

Matchroom Sport’s Barry Hearn has suggested live televised sport should continue behind closed doors during the coronavirus outbreak and that snooker will wait for government advice before suspending any events.

The snooker, darts and boxing promoter told BBC Radio Scotland that he would continue to schedule sporting events “where possible”, or delay them at worst.

He said: “I’m not sure of the benefit of not staging outdoor events. People talk about spreading the virus, but unless we’re all going to be locked indoors for the next few months, we’re all going to be down the pub or mixing with people at work, or travelling on trains.”

Hearn suggested this year’s World Snooker Championships, scheduled to take place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from April 18 to May 4, could be played in front of empty seats.

He added: “My gut feeling is to carry on whenever possible subject to normal health requirements.

“I’m actually looking at events behind closed doors, to actually expand the events I’m doing. Because there’s an opportunity there to keep everyone busy and happy. It does present an opportunity for indoor sports, behind closed doors, even boxing may well have a market in the absence of any other live sport existing.”

Yesterday (Sunday), the final of the World Snooker Tour’s Gibraltar Open took place behind closed doors. The tournament was initially limited to a crowd of 100 people but then switched to going behind closed doors halfway through.

After it was announced two referees had fallen ill, players were asked to referee their own matches. In one case, Chinese player Liang Wenbo had to pick the balls out of pockets for his opponent James Cahill.

Following the final, Hearn responded to calls to suspend the upcoming World Championships by tweeting: “We need directive from government based on specialist advice. Then we have three options – cancel/delay/play within government rules. Time will tell.”

Matchroom sports has already had to announce a provisional reschedule programme for the Professional Darts Corporation’s 2020 Premier League event. Last Thursday it was announced that a double-header scheduled to take place in Rotterdam on March 25 and 26 had been postponed due to regulations forbidding large public gathering in the Netherlands. The event is now scheduled to take place on September 9-10 in the same country.

Hearn remarked: “Already I’ve got a team of people working on alternative dates. I’ve cancelled next week’s Premier League in Rotterdam and immediately booked 9-10 September so we can have something to look forward to maybe.”

Like Hearn, PDC chief executive Matt Porter has said the darts organisation will continue to follow government advice on whether events should be cancelled or postponed. In spite of a swathe of cancellations to sporting events around the world, darts has continued to organise a busy schedule during the coronavirus outbreak. The Premier League went to Liverpool last week and is scheduled to be in Newcastle this week.

Last Friday (March 13), World Snooker issued a provisional statement indicating the World Snooker Championships and next week’s Tour Championship in Llandudno would take place as planned, provided the situation didn’t change.

Hearn noted: “I’m playing the Gibraltar Open [snooker] behind closed doors at this moment in time. Next week I have the tour championships and I’m waiting to hear if I’m allowed to do it.”

And it also sheds some light about the reason why players were self-refereeing in Gibraltar… With seven referees already missing because they couldn’t make it, two more falling ill was probably not sustainable. Refereeing asks for huge concentration, the referees can’t be doing a 24/7 and sustain the high level that their job requires.

Two interviews, one with Ali Carter, one with Ronnie

The media are always after stories, and the needle between Ali Carter and Ronnie is one topic they like to bring forward and write about.

Now this interview with Ali Carter brings a quite different light on the topic 

Ali Carter thanks Ronnie O’Sullivan after grabbing his Masters spot, but they’re still not best pals

Phil Haigh

Monday 20 Jan 2020 2:51 pm

Ali Carter insists he has no animosity towards Ronnie O’Sullivan, but isn’t sure the feeling is mutual.

The Captain took the Rocket’s place in the Masters this year as O’Sullivan didn’t fancy playing in the tournament, saying he had other things to do with his time. Making the most of the situation, the world number 17 beat three former world champions – Mark Selby, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy – to reach the final, where he was narrowly beaten by Stuart Bingham.

The 40-year-old picked up £100,000 for his week’s work but predictably faced a string of questions about O’Sullivan over the tournament, with whom he endures something of a strained relationship.

He’s always been on my Christmas card list, I’m not sure I’m on his though,’ said Carter after defeat in the final at Alexandra Palace.

The pair have known each other for the best part of 30 years and have never been best mates, but tensions really bubbled over at the 2018 World Championship when O’Sullivan nudged Carter with his shoulder between shots, and they got into a heated exchange.

Carter and O’Sullivan met during the Masters this year, as Ronnie was working in the Eurosport studio.

The Captain insists things were cordial and he thanked the Rocket for allowing him the opportunity to play at Ally Pally. ‘I’ve done a couple of interviews in the studio, he seems very pleased for me. I said “thanks Ron.”‘

Carter said after his semi-final win. Carter has moved to clear up the infamous ‘shoulder barge’ in the past, saying that the veterans have put the daft incident behind them

Yeah I spoke to him plenty about it, actually, there’s no hard feelings, it was heat of the moment stuff,’ Carter said after qualifying for the 2019 World Championship.

‘I haven’t been the fondest of Ronnie over the years, but I’ve got the ultimate respect for him as a player and what did give me ultimate respect for him was at the UK Championship, at the hotel when I was having breakfast.

‘This was some months later and he came over to me, he doesn’t need to speak to me, and he came over and said, “Ali, I’d just like to apologise and there’s no hard feelings” and he shook my hand

‘So I thought to myself “hats off to the man,” and he looked me straight in the eye when he said it and he meant it. It’s all water under the bridge and he’s a good guy.’

The Rocket said of the event in 2018: ‘I’ve known Ali since he was 10 years of age, sometimes it gets a bit tense out there but it’s all behind us.’

The clash is in the past, but don’t expect these two Essex lads to be sharing a pint any time soon.

The last sentence for me is totally unecessary. Ronnie took the initiative to go and talk to Ali, and to apologise. Ali has accepted the apology and says that Ronnie has gained his ultimate respect doing this. So why not if circumstances lead to it?

Then there is this other interview, this time with Ronnie who seems to be in a good place.

Ronnie O’Sullivan backs himself as the best in the business: ‘If I had to choose a snooker player, I’d take me all day long’

Phil Haigh

Sunday 19 Jan 2020 10:57 am

Ronnie O’Sullivan says his days of learning from other players are over and is completely confident in the skills he brings to the snooker table.

The Rocket has been watching on at the Masters this week, after choosing not to play in the event and sticking to his gig in the Eurosport studio instead.

The five-time world champion saw fellow veterans Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham book their places in the Alexandra Palace final on Saturday night as they beat Shaun Murphy and David Gilbert respectively. O’Sullivan was asked if he still picks up pointers for his own game while taking a watching brief and the Rocket was entirely dismissive of the suggestion.

‘I don’t think there’s anyone I can possibly learn from, I don’t want to learn from anyone else,’ Ronnie told Eurosport. ‘I love what I’ve got, I love what I do, I’ve tried to harness and just better what I’ve got.

‘There’s players in the game who have got things: Selby has got more grit, Higgins has got a better temperament. ‘But if I had to choose a snooker player, I’d take me all day long, I like my chances.

‘Every time I get on the start line I think I fancy my chances, whoever I play. If I don’t perform and the other guy plays well, fair play, but over a 30-year period, I like what I’ve got.’

O’ Sullivan disappointed many with his decision not to play at Alexandra Palace this year, especially as he said it was because he had other things to do and then spent his week at the venue on punditry duties.

However, even without Ronnie, it is an all-Essex final on Sunday between Carter and Bingham, neither of whom have ever reached this stage of the event in their lengthy careers to date.

The Rocket didn’t make an outright prediction, but is very confident in the mental strength of Bingham going into the huge match. ‘He’s got a great temperament, he’s won the World Championship, big matches,’ Ronnie said of Ballrun.

‘He knew Dave Gilbert is playing well tonight [in the semi-finals]. He come out there and looked the more comfortable player. ‘He hasn’t produced his best snooker, but he’s done it when it matters. He won a match yesterday not playing great, just because of his temperament.

‘He’s going to be fine tomorrow, don’t worry about that.’

Obviously it was done before the final and Ronnie was right.

The title IMO is misleading. Ronnie doesn’t say anywhere that he is the best, he says that he’s happy with what he has and wouldn’t want to be otherwise. Well, after years of beating himself up for not being able to be perfect at the table 7/7-24/24 this is a very welcome change of perspective.

There was also a similar but more complete article in Polish published by ES Poland, and here is the automatic translation

The prestigious Masters tournament was held in London last week. 16 best players from the world ranking took part in it. However, we did not see the third player in the classification. The game makes him happy – I have a good relationship with sponsors and I can determine with them which events to play. China is a very important market, so I have to play in some tournaments there. I will not attend just any event. I can choose. But I know that if the world championships were to start even tomorrow, I could take part in them. I feel good and I enjoy playing – said the Englishman. “I left Masters, but it’s not related to money,” he continued. – This tournament doesn’t just suit me and that’s why I didn’t play there. Thanks to this, I have not had stress recently and felt no pressure. During the holidays I spent time with my children and partner. It was a nice time because I didn’t have to prepare. All in all, I gave up many events in my life, but I have no reproaches for this – the player assured. He loves his own style. O’Sullivan is a role model for thousands of snooker players from around the world. In his career he won five world championship titles. He also won 36 ranked and 34 unranked tournaments. “I don’t want to learn anything from other players,” he explained. – I love how I play. My style gives me a lot of pleasure. There are probably no elements that I would like to do better. Maybe I could get something from John Higgins or Steven Hendry, who no longer performs. They are perfect snooker players. All in all, however, I like my game the most. Many players announce that they will beat me, but then we approach the table and it turns out that my snooker is better. I am satisfied with what I did – he assured. – There are a lot of things I can do outside of tournaments. It could have been like this in the past, but I thought I had to do only the game. I participate in many businesses and just enjoy snooker. I don’t have to play for money anymore, I do it with passion – added the 44-year-old. At the end of the unique meeting, Ebert asked O’Sullivan to recreate the 2008 World Cup game. The Englishman made a maximum break in the second round match against Mark Williams from Wales. At one point he had to show off an extremely difficult play. Now it was only in the third attempt that he managed to approach the perfect blow. Then he won the entire tournament.

It’s probably the same interview, but reported with more details.

Ronnie confirmed what Jimmy White has hinted at during the Masters. Ronnie wanted to enjoy family time without having the “burden” to prepare for a major event.

I have put the bits I found most interesting in bold.

Enjoy the reads.

An interview with Ronnie ahead of the Masters 2020 and a Preview

This interview was conducted by Eurosport before the Christmas break.

Thank you for making it available to me.


And now for a bit of last 16 preview for what it’s worth… 

Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy

Judd Trump is the defending champion and, surely, he starts the tournament as favourite given how well he has played over the last year. In fact it was his 10-4 win over Ronnie in last year final that started it in earnest. That said he couldn’t really get a tougher opponent than Shaun Murphy in his first match. Shaun had a nightmare season in 2018/19 but is playing much better this season. Judd hasn’t been at his best just before the holidays break, he’s lost to Nigel Bond of all people in York and failed to qualify for the European Masters. Now, he was probably very tired and in need of a break. Yesterday, he won Group 6 in the Championship League Snooker. He looked in good form but CLS form doesn’t mean much: in 2010 Ronnie and Mark Selby played in Group 2, just before the Masters, finished 6th and 7th of the group, both relegated, only to meet in the Final of the Masters the next week. Shaun has been very solid this season, making it to three big finals, winning one. However, one of the finals he lost was a 10-3 defeat to Judd. I expect Judd to win, but the match to be close, probably 6-4 or 6-5. 

Ding Junhui v Joe Perry

I can see only one winner here and it’s Ding. Ding has won the 2019 UK Championship last month, playing really well. He also qualified for both the 2020 European Masters and the 2020 German Masters. During the last month of 2019 he has beaten Ali Carter, Ronnie, Yan Bingtao, Stephen Maguire, Matthew Stevens and Peter Ebdon (never easy). In fact, over the last two months he’s lost just one match. Joe Perry on the other hand has had an indifferent season so far, and was dreadful in the CLS over the last two days. His only hope is that Ding has gone off the boil completely during the holidays break. My prediction: a comfortable win for Ding: 6-2 or 6-3.

Mark Selby v Ali Carter

Mark Selby has been a bit in and out so far this season, as he has been since mid 2017, but he still won two ranking events over the last months, including the last one of  2019, the Scottish Open. He has also qualified for both the 2020 European Masters and the 2020 German Masters. He should feel reasonably confident again. Ali Carter hasn’t got past the quarter finals in any event this season so far, and that only quarter final came at the six-reds World Championship. Add to that the fact that when things don’t go his way, he’s prone to getting frustrated and throwing his toys out of his pram. I can see only one winner, Mark Selby. I won’t predict a score. Depending on Mark’s form it could be close or totally one-sided.

John Higgins v Barry Hawkins

Neither players have been at their best so far this season. John Higgins though has reached a semi final twice, where he lost to Judd Trump both times, Also, he hasn’t lost to any low ranked player all season: the only players out of the top 16 who beat him were Graeme Dott, Kurt Maflin and Yan Bingtao. Barry Hawkins is going through a terrible season. He won the 2019 Paul Hunter Classic, but other than that he didn’t go past the QF in any event, and he only reached that stage twice, in the 2019 Shanghai Masters and in the 2019 China Championship, rather early in the season. Their head-to-head is pretty close: it’s 9 wins to Higgins for 8 to Barry, and Barry actually won the last of their encounters, and the only one that was played this season. So it’s hard to call. John Higgins has got slightly better results this season, but his record at the Masters is not great. I will go for 6-4 either way.

Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire

Both Neil Robertson and Stephen Maguire have blown hot and cold this season. Neil won the 2019 Champion of Champions, beating Judd Trump by 10-9 in the final, and Ronnie by 6-5 in the semi final, both very high quality matches. He’s also reached the semi finals in the 2019 Shanghai Masters where Ronnie beat him by 10-6, but in the ranking events he hasn’t got past the last 16. Stephen Maguire has won the 2010 six-reds World Championship, and was runner-up in the 2019 UK Championship but other than that hasn’t gone past the last 16 in any event. So, this match is very hard to predict. Neil Robertson though is coming to Ally Pally with a goal…


A very honourable goal. I believe that this will motivate him big time. Because of that, and because he’s been doing really well in invitational events so far, I will go for a 6-4 or 6-3 win for Neil.

Mark Allen v David Gilbert

Mark Allen has got a very strange season so far. He’s reached the semi finals 6 times out of 11 tournaments he’s played in. In the others he lost in the last 64 twice, in the last 32 twice and in the last 16 once. David Gilbert’s season has been just as bizarre: he’s made it to one final, one semi final, 4 quarter finals … but also lost in the first round 5 times.  The main factors in this match will probably be, one, that this is David Gilbert first ever Masters and the London crowd is usually quite animated and loud, and two, that Mark Allen was bitterly disappointed by his performance last year and will want to redeem himself. The rowdy atmosphere should suit him. Prediction: 6-3 or 6-2 to Mark Allen. 

Kyren Wilson v Jack Lisowski

If one forgets the Paul Hunter Classic, Kyren Wilson’s season has been rather poor: one semi final at the 2019 World Open, one quarter final at the 2019 Shanghai Masters and a couple of last 16. Jack Lisowski’s season has been similar: a final at the 2019 Scottish Open, a quarter final at the 2019 Shanghai Masters and a couple of last 16. It’s also Jack’s first Masters and, in my opinion, Jack tends to be a bit overawed when facing a big stage for the first time. This is a very big stage with a unique atmosphere. Because of this I expect a comfortable win for Kyren: 6-1 or 6-2. Now I wish I’m wrong here.

Mark Williams v Stuart Bingham

Now this one promises to be hard fough match, but not necessarily high quality. Mark Williams season hasn’t been great but there were signs in the recent months that he is back practising and playing well again. He lost to Shaun Murphy by 10-9 at the 2019 China Championship, and won 6 matches out of 6 in the round-robin phase of CLS Group 5 earlier this week. The problem with Williams is that he doesn’t seem to be able, or find the necessary motivation, to do it consistently. Stuart Bingham hasn’t got past the quarter finals in any event, and reached that stage only twice, one being at the six-reds World Championship. Not great. I expect Mark Williams to win by 6-3 or 6-4.

That’s for the first round. What about a winner? Ronnie goes for Ding; it’s a prediction he does with his heart I’m sure but I genuinely believe that Ding has a good chance. Actually, should they both win, he will face Judd Trump in the quarter finals, which is better than facing him in the final. I expect the winner of that QF to go and win the title. Other than those two, I think that Mark Selby and Neil Robertson are serious contenders.