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)

Ronnie

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)

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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.

 

 

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.

ROSMaster2020Interview-1ROSMaster2020Interview-2ROSMaster2020Interview-3

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…

NeilMastersTweet

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.

 

Crucible 2019 – The Press Day

Traditionally the Friday before the World Championship is the Press Day. The top  16, the officials and the sponsor meet the members of the press.

Here are some images and videos that emerged today on social media

Meeting the press:

Ronnie remembers his best and worse Crucible moments with Eurosport

And he’s been talking to the sponsor…

As always, Ronnie sounds a bit low-key, but I honestly believe that this is part of trying to ease the weight of expectations a bit.

Meanwhile the fitters are getting the arena and practise room ready

Whilst Matt Huart has been working on a blog about the rankings (now there’s a surprise!)

Four to Fight for Season End Top Ranking

19th April 2019

Four players head to the Crucible from this Saturday looking not only to claim the Betfred World Snooker Championship title, but also to end the season as snooker’s world number one ranked player.

View the latest provisional end of season rankings

For the last seven successive seasons the honour has gone to three-time world champion Mark Selby, however having already been deposed as world number one by Ronnie O’Sullivan in recent weeks and with the prize money from his 2017 Crucible success due to fall from him ranking, there is a real possibility that this run will come to an end this year.

O’Sullivan favourite

Leading the race to finish the campaign ranked at number one for the first time since the end of the 2009/10 season is current top ranked player Ronnie O’Sullivan. The five-time world champion heads to Sheffield with a provisional total of £1,196,500 to his name, almost £200,000 clear of his closest rival.

Leading the chase is defending champion Mark Williams, who is the only player other than Ronnie whose prospects of claiming top spot remains in his own hands. This is because winning the tournament once again would guarantee that the Welshman would return to the top of the list, even if O’Sullivan were to reach the final.

Outside chance

The other two players who can still mathematically regain top spot are Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, however both would need some help by way of an early exit for O’Sullivan.

Both players would in fact need to win the tournament to stand any possible chance of leapfrogging the top two, with O’Sullivan also losing before the semi-final stage.

If O’Sullivan were to reach the last four, only Williams would be able to deny him a place at the top of the season-end rankings for what would be the sixth time in his career, while Williams is looking to finish there for a fifth time.

Also a £50000 prize has been announced for a 147 at the Crucible.

The prize for making a maximum break at the 2019 Betfred World Championship will be £50,000.

Snooker’s biggest tournament starts on Saturday and runs for 17 days, with 32 players battling for the title. And a 147 at the Crucible will be worth a £50,000 bonus.

Maximum breaks are usually rewarded from the rolling pot for 147s but with that pot down to £5,000 following Stuart Bingham’s maximum at the China Open, World Snooker and WPBSA have decided to boost the prize up to £50,000.

There is also a high break prize of £10,000.

147s at the Crucible

Cliff Thorburn 1983
Jimmy White 1992
Stephen Hendry 1995
Ronnie O’Sullivan 1997
Ronnie O’Sullivan 2003
Mark Williams 2005
Ronnie O’Sullivan 2008
Ali Carter 2008
Stephen Hendry 2009
Stephen Hendry 2012

147s this season

Michael Georgiou – 2018 Paul Hunter Classic
Jamie Jones – 2018 Paul Hunter Classic
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh – 2018 English Open
Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2018 English Open
Mark Selby – 2018 Champion of Champions
John Higgins – 2018 Scottish Open
Judd Trump – 2018 German Masters qualifiers
David Gilbert – 2019 Championship League
Neil Robertson – 2019 Welsh Open
Noppon Sanegkham – 2019 Welsh Open
Zhou Yuelong – 2019 Indian Open
Stuart Bingham – 2019 China Open

Yes, that’s 7 years ago. A maximum at the Crucible remains a rarity because a number of factors, notably the pressure because of the importance of the event and of course nobody will take unduly risks . With the big bonus gone, there wasn’t much incentive for the players to try to make one. They finally understood that it seems.

And everyone else has been doing previews. Here is mine.

Ronnie signs for three more years with Eurosport

Here is the announcement:

Snooker legend Ronnie signs multi-year deal with Eurosport

April 02 2019

Snooker legend Ronnie signs multi-year deal with Eurosport

• O’Sullivan pens deal to be Eurosport snooker expert for three years
• Joins Eurosport’s team of experts that include White and Foulds
• O’Sullivan: Eurosport is the go-to destination for passionate snooker fans

One of the sport’s greatest icons will be on Eurosport’s screens for another three years after it was announced snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan has signed up with the Discovery-owned network to be an expert analyst.

Affectionately named ‘The Rocket’ in reference to his breath-taking shot making ability on the baize, the five-time World Champion will join Eurosport’s stellar cast of snooker experts throughout the upcoming 2019 World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

O’Sullivan will also be chief contributor to an exclusive short-form series 60 Second Pro, to be screened on Eurosport’s linear and digital channels throughout the tournament where the potting maestro will dissect some of the key aspects of the game – covering everything from the perfect break to imparting the right amount of spin for certain shots.

Ronnie O’Sullivan said: “I am delighted to extend my association with Eurosport for another three years. Eurosport has been an important part of my professional life over the last few seasons and I can’t wait to share my opinions with viewers from right across Europe.

“It is well-known within the game that Eurosport is the go-to destination for passionate snooker fans and I’m proud to be part of that team.”

Joining O’Sullivan to analyse the best of the action during the World Snooker Championship will be six-time World Championship finalist Jimmy White, former professional stalwart Neal Foulds with respected broadcasters Colin Murray and Andy Goldstein anchoring the show and Rachel Casey conducting interviews on-site from Sheffield. Professional snooker guru Chris Henry, who has coached the likes of Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui and Stephen Hendry, will supplement Eurosport’s coverage with unique insights into the mindset of the players during the 17-day tournament.

Over 150 hours of live coverage will be shown exclusively* on Eurosport, eurosport.com and the Eurosport App across Europe with highlights shows, replays and action from the qualifying tournament** taking that figure to well over 300 hours by the time the curtain comes down on the 42nd edition of snooker’s blue-riband event. Dave Hendon will be calling the action for Eurosport.

Eurosport first broadcast the World Snooker Championship in 2000 and has shown every tournament since 2003. In 2016, Eurosport underlined its status as the Home of Snooker when it signed a ten-year agreement with World Snooker to broadcast all of the major tournaments on the snooker calendar, including the Home Nations Series, Masters and the World Snooker Championship.

*Total exclusivity except the UK
**The qualifying tournament is available only on Eurosport Player

Notes to Editors
Key Dates for the Diary:
Saturday 20 April – Day 1 of the 2019 World Snooker Championship main tournament
Saturday 27 April – Second round begins
Tuesday 30 April – Quarter-Finals begin
Thursday 2 May – Semi-Finals begin
Monday 6 May – The final of the 2019 World Snooker Championship concludes

The 2019 World Snooker Championship will be shown on Eurosport platforms in:
Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vatican.

Ronnie O’Sullivan Biography
Born: 5 December 1975 (West Midlands, England)
Hometown: Chigwell, Essex, England
One of the greatest players in the history of snooker, Ronnie O’Sullivan has five world titles to his name having won the sport’s biggest prize in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013. During his professional career – which started in 1992 – O’Sullivan has won a total of 35 ranking tournaments and last month became the first player to record 1,000 100+ breaks in a career. Ronnie started working with Eurosport in 2014, quickly establishing himself as one of the most engaging, insightful and entertaining analysts in snooker. Away from snooker, Ronnie was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2016, is interested in the role nutrition can play in everyday health and his modern-day sporting idol is Barcelona and Argentina playmaker Lionel Messi.

Ronnie: an interview and revisiting the Masters

The Masters 2019 is upon us, it starts on Sunday, and inevitably Ronnie is in the news. He’s won this tournament a record  seven times, over the last fifteen years, he’s made it to 9 finals, in fourteen participation and won it six times. So it’s no wonder that the press will want to speak to him in the build-up.

And now of course, having won the UK championship for the seventh time before Christmas, bringing his number of “Triple Crowns” to nineteen and having superseded Stephen Hendry’s tally in the process, he’s largely recognised as the greatest.

So here is an interview with de Daily Mail

‘I don’t think any player has ever got the better of me’: Ronnie O’Sullivan on being the best in the world, why he can play until he is 55, and his next trick

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan has had ‘no better feeling’ than being at the top of his game
  • The five-time world champion tells Sportsmail why he is so consistent
  • He has considered taking up hobbies including go-karting and Nordic skiing  
  • O’Sullivan will play Stuart Bingham in the first round of the Masters on Monday 

Ronnie O’Sullivan is usually his own harshest critic. But the tortured king of snooker seems less tormented nowadays, with the pursuit of perfection not as painful as it was.

It is refreshing to hear O’Sullivan, 43, who is normally quicker to praise his contemporaries, speak about those moments when he is at the top of his game.

‘It’s fantastic! There is no better feeling,’ he says. ‘I feel like I have an answer for anything that my opponent might bring to the table — whether that’s good safety, or good break-building, or good potting.

Ronnie O'Sullivan believes there is no better feeling than being at the top of his game

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes there is no better feeling than being at the top of his game

 

O'Sullivan has won five World Championships and seven UK Championships during his career

O’Sullivan has won five World Championships and seven UK Championships during his career

‘I just know that they have to continue doing what they’re good at to a very high level for a very long time to have a chance to beat me. And they might beat me. But I’ll be coming for you the next week.

‘And I’ll be coming for you the week after. So keep bringing your A game. At the end of their career most players will say, “Well, I didn’t really get the better of Ronnie”. And that’s all you can do as a sportsman.’

At 17, O’Sullivan saw off Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship, thanks to sublime talent and an infectious personality, and has dominated snooker for more than 25 years.

‘I’ve had to play different eras and players. Some players will come along for five years and everyone will be saying, “Oh they’re going to be great”. And then I’ll have to deal with them.

‘And then it will be another batch and then I’d have five years of them. And then another batch of players. Because they can’t sustain it. They can’t sustain it for 25 years.

‘I don’t think there’s any pro who has ever played in my era who can honestly say that they got the better of me, really,’ he says nonchalantly between sips of lemon and ginger tea.

So how has he done it? ‘You have to reinvent yourself sometimes,’ he continues. ‘You have to look round and say, “There are players out there doing stuff better than I am”. I want to try to get that into my game.’

O'Sullivan spoke to Sportsmail about his lengthy career and his success in the sport

O’Sullivan spoke to Sportsmail about his lengthy career and his success in the sport

 

Aged just 17, O’Sullivan defeated Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship

Aged just 17, O’Sullivan defeated Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship

O’Sullivan, who watched and learned as heroes such as Jimmy White, Steve Davis and Hendry became opponents, had a close eye on Mark Williams last year. Aged 43, the Welshman won his third World Championship in May, 15 years after his last Crucible victory.

Williams credited Steve Feeney’s SightRight stable with advances in his game and this was not lost on O’Sullivan, who joined the programme in July.

‘I noticed Mark had got more compact and that was a consequence of changing his alignment,’ says O’Sullivan. ‘I was always interested in someone who can compact everything that they can do. When I’m playing my best I feel compact and tight so I thought I would give it a go.

‘I knew I needed to do something. I didn’t want to carry on playing as I was last season.

‘It was like learning a new language. He gave me solidness, if you like. I’m not a better player. I don’t believe you can improve as a player. I think once you get to 21, 22 you’re as good as you’re ever going to be.

‘I’m just a different type of player. More consistent, if you like. Probably won’t have as many moments of brilliance because I won’t need to. I’ll just be solid — which is OK for me.’

O'Sullivan accepted that he was a solid player and that has helped him achieve success

O’Sullivan accepted that he was a solid player and that has helped him achieve success

 

O'Sullivan has won a record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments during his career

O’Sullivan has won a record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments during his career

O’Sullivan credits Ray Reardon with improving his safety game, and his union with psychiatrist Steve Peters helped challenge his mental demons. Away from the table, nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert changed his attitude to food, and artist Damien Hirst is a regular in his dressing room.

‘I’m lucky, I’ve got some good friends,’ he says. ‘And some great people who have become friends. My friends are people who want nothing from me — even with Steve Peters.

‘He wants nothing from me other than to see me do well. I kind of gravitate to those people and keep them in my life. I’m lucky to have them around.’

O'Sullivan is a keen runner and has changed his approach to his diet to prolong his career 
O’Sullivan is a keen runner and has changed his approach to his diet to prolong his career

 

O'Sullivan beat Mark Allen to claim his seventh UK Championship victory in York in December 

O’Sullivan beat Mark Allen to claim his seventh UK Championship victory in York in December

The wild nights out are long gone in favour of quiet nights in. O’Sullivan, who has written three fiction books and has his own cookery book published in May, is reading about Genghis Khan and is a Netflix aficionado.

He still runs (‘I can do a Parkrun — three miles — in about 20 minutes, which is all right, though it ain’t great.’)

But O’Sullivan, nimble of body and inquisitive of mind, is looking for new pastimes.

‘I’m going to go into karting,’ he says. ‘I’ve got my first testing after the Masters. They do four five-hour races. Three drivers.

‘You do the pole position — all that sort of thing. You start at eight in the morning and finish at five at night. So I thought, yeah that’ll do me. Once a month, something like that.

‘I want to start Nordic skiing as well. Cross-country skiing. I’ve always fancied that because it’s like running. I’ve got that running background. It doesn’t look like there’s much skill involved. I’m always looking for something to do.’

The West Midlands-born cueman has thought about taking up go-karting and Nordic skiing 
The West Midlands-born cueman has thought about taking up go-karting and Nordic skiing

 

He insists that he does not prepare for tournaments or opponents in a specific manner
He insists that he does not prepare for tournaments or opponents in a specific manner

O’Sullivan won the UK Championship last month, becoming the first player to win 19 Triple Crown events, overtaking Hendry in the process.

With the Masters — a tournament he has won seven times with three victories in the past five years — starting on Sunday, O’Sullivan faces 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham in the first round on Monday. How has he been preparing?

‘I don’t actually prepare for one tournament in a certain way. I just kind of play,’ he says.

‘I’m a bit like a boxer who is fit all year round. I wouldn’t be like a Ricky Hatton where I finish a fight and then don’t go near a gym for two months. I’d be back in the gym, training. That’s how I live my life as a snooker player.’

As his career progresses, O'Sullivan has taken on more commentary and analysis roles

As his career progresses, O’Sullivan has taken on more commentary and analysis roles

 

O'Sullivan's first match at the Masters will be against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham 

O’Sullivan’s first match at the Masters will be against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham

O’Sullivan will be analysing his competitors for Eurosport during the competition. He provides sharp insight and has learned a thing or two.

‘I’ve had to commentate on nine frames in a match,’ he says. ‘Wow! So you get to see a different game when you’re commentating from when you’re playing.’

And although he believes that his form over the past six or seven years has been something near his best, how long can he go on?

‘Whatever sport or business you’re in, you’re always looking around at your competitors,’ he says. ‘Is anyone doing anything better than you and can you learn from them? I don’t really see anybody tearing it up, really.

‘It’s kind of giving me a little more belief that I can play a bit longer than I thought I could. I think 50 would be the minimum. Competing and still winning tournaments.

‘Unless some really good players come up through the ranks, I could maybe go on until 55. So who knows? I’m never satisfied, I just want to be as good as I can be, if that makes sense.’

Ronnie has also been on twitter, yesterday and the day before for the first time this year. He’s considering doing some podcasts and pointed his fans to this video by Eurosport UK, recollecting some of his most remarkable moments at the Masters.

Looking forward to kicking off 2019 at the Masters next week 😃

An article by Desmond Kane (Eurosport) about the “class of 92”

Eurosport

Rejuvenated class of ’92 inspire snooker’s greatest era: O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams

37 minutes ago

Updated 15 minutes ago

Forget the 1980s, we are living in snooker’s golden age with three giants of the sport – Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams – performing at their very best, writes Desmond Kane.

From the golden generation, comes a golden era. The curious narrative of the green baize has become a sort of Benjamin Button with snooker balls courtesy of its glistening potting triumvirate.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, the world’s top three this year, have a combined age of 126, but a collective snooker brain of about half that.

The older they get, the younger they get. Weird, but also wonderful for those of you out there who rage against the dying of the light. If the 1980s was snooker’s heyday in the UK, snooker is at its zenith in 2018.

O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams, three blokes 21 years short of making up a combined age of 147, have never performed better encased by some sort of time-defying emollient and a genuine desire to improve.

Eight out of the season’s 16 ranking tournaments have been gobbled up by WHO at 42? It is not melodramatic to suggest the ongoing class of ’92 – the year when they started out as professionals – are holding up better at the table than Paul Newman as ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson. And he was fictional.

O’Sullivan is officially enjoying his best season collecting a career-best haul of four titles at the English Open, Shanghai Masters, UK Championship and World Grand Prix.

Snooker's top 10 this season.

No country for young men? O’Sullivan is targeting two more world titles in his 40s to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven.

“Perhaps 40 is the new 25,” he has commented.

After a seemingly terminal decline since his peak of world titles in 2000 and 2003, Williams is blooming like a Welsh daffodil. He ended a seven-year drought to win the Northern Ireland Open with a 9-8 win over Yan Bingtao in November before waltzing to his 20th career title with a 9-1 victory over Graeme Dott at the German Masters last month.

VIDEO – O’Sullivan: I’d like to win two more world titles before I’m 50

Higgins usurped Barry Hawkins 9-7 to earn a fifth Welsh Open and 30th ranking title on Sunday night, 23 years after he first reached the final of the event. He has also lifted the Indian Masters title less than a year after becoming the oldest World Championship finalist aged 41 since Ray Reardon in 1982.

Higgins attributes the expanded snooker tour for saving and extending his career because he is no longer having to isolate himself for practice sessions when he is playing so much. When you study six-times world champion Steve Davis aged 39 winning the Masters in 1997 for his final major victory or Hendry’s toil in his 30s before retiring at age of 43 in 2012, it is remarkable to witness snooker become a game for true greats.

VIDEO – Higgins seals victory over Hawkins in Welsh Open Final

Higgins told me back in 2009 a day after lifting the third of his four world crowns, that “when you get to your late 30, early 40s, it will naturally become more difficult with the amount of talent pushing through”. Yet he continues to compete at the highest levels due to a technique made in Scotland from girders.

A holy timeless trilogy with 11 world titles between them are rewriting the record books on what can be achieved beyond the previously slippery slope of 40 with a load of balls and a snooker cue as Chas & Dave sung back in its 1980s pomp.

VIDEO – The Rocket Files: John Higgins

The world might have been going snooker loopy back in those days of mullets, shoulder pads and shell suits, but the game of snooker has never been more credible.

Out of the top 30 heaviest century makers in the history of the sport, only Hendry, Davis and John Parrott have retired.

With a golden generation growing golder in their third decade, snooker boasts genuine forces of nature in world champion Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Mark Allen and Neil Robertson. None of them are in the first flush of youth.

There is also a supporting cast that includes serious rising Chinese talent led by Bingtao as the sport suddenly houses serious prize money.

VIDEO – Stunning pot sets up Williams for German Masters glory

If O’Sullivan wins a sixth world title in May, he snares £425,000 and becomes the first man to earn £1m on the table in a season. But Higgins and Williams carrying off the old pot would not be a surprise given how this season is unravelling.

It is a glorious sight indeed in any sport to witness maturing talent make good on their late promise

Life begins at 40? In snooker, life begins beyond 40. And the final frame, the final black is some way off being sunk for the perpetual potters.

Desmond Kane

Follow this link to read the original article and watch the videos.