Barry Hearn reacts to Ronnie’s ideas about alternate events

As expected Barry Hearn has reacted to Ronnie’s ideas about organising alternate events, and, as expected he’s giving him no chance to succeesd. He’s been talking to Phil Haigh:

Barry Hearn gives Ronnie O’Sullivan’s new tour plan ‘absolutely zero chance’ of happening

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Barry Hearn and Ronnie OSullivan have had their ups and downs over the years (Picture: Getty Images)
Barry Hearn and Ronnie O’Sullivan have a long history of disagreements (Picture: Getty Images)

Barry Hearn has labelled Ronnie O’Sullivan’s plan for a separate tour for ageing players as a ‘crazy idea’ and gives it ‘absolutely zero chance’ of coming to fruition.

Hearn has heard of plans for breakaway tours from O’Sullivan before and does not harbour serious concerns over this new idea coming to pass.

The WST chairman can see why the plan would suit the 45-year-old, but does not envisage any other players wanting to get on board with it.

‘That’s okay because there’s only him,’ Hearn told Metro.co.uk of O’Sullivan’s ambitious plot. ‘What you’ve got to realise is that Ronnie O’Sullivan is a genius on the snooker table, but geniuses are flawed personalities and sometimes they have crazy ideas.

‘Ronnie is great on the table and has crazy ideas off the table.

‘99% of the playing membership are delighted with the way snooker is going and delighted to play every week because they are professional players. There just aren’t any players like Ronnie.

‘When players can’t win on the tour then they may be interested in what else is out there. But whilst there is a dream of winning on the tour, and all the top players still have that, of course some are getting older, the Class of 92, John Higgins, Mark Williams, but these guys are still earning a great deal of money and they love to play snooker.

‘There will come a time where they don’t want to, of course, and Ronnie may well have two or three players that would rather just do exhibition snooker than tournament snooker.

‘But at the moment, as the tour gets bigger, we’ve had a Covid setback obviously with no China events this year, but we will bounce back stronger when this situation clears, and frankly Ronnie’s ideas about alternatives are only for Ronnie O’Sullivan, they’re not for anybody else.

‘Don’t be confused. Ronnie’s ideas are only ideas that appeal to Ronnie.

‘The other players are very much aware of that, which is why he has zero support anywhere else.’

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Ronnie O’Sullivan is looking for an alternative from the rigours of the main tour (Picture: Getty Images)

Hearn expects O’Sullivan and his contemporaries, such as Higgins and Williams, to remain on the main tour for years to come because they are good enough to compete at the business end of tournaments for some time.

He recognises that older players will not enjoy the rigours of the full-time tour as much as their younger rivals, but that is the nature of any sport and rules cannot be bent for the veterans.

‘The experience these players have got over the years makes them so difficult to beat, even with their B game,’ said Hearn of the veterans of the baize.

‘Ronnie O’Sullivan definitely falls into that category. Ronnie O’Sullivan could probably be top 16 for another 10 years, if he wanted to.

‘But ideally he’d like things different to suit him better, but unfortunately that doesn’t suit the sport better.

‘So he has no absolutely zero chance of doing anything like that, it’s just words.’

Well, I agree with Hearn that Ronnie is very unlikely to get his project to become reality, unless he has someone like Jason Francis in his corner, someone who has experience with setting up events, negotiating with venue managers, sponsors, and possibly broadcasters. And I wrote like Jason, because Jason himself has more than enough on his hands with the WSS tour and won’t be available for this, even if he wanted to.

Ronnie has neither the experience, nor the mental resilience to do such a thing successfully. Pat Mooney tried something like that with John Higgins, in 2007-2009. It was called the World Series of Snooker. There was a trial event in Warsaw in 2007, then it ran for the whole 2008/09 season, but the 2009/10 season was never completed.  They even had Eurosport support. They had some really good and popular players on board as well: John Higgins, Dott, Murphy, Selby, Ding, Jimmy White, Doherty… But, even so, it wasn’t sustainable economically. They ended up in debts.

So I agree with Hearn, but not necessarily for the reasons he puts forward. I’m pretty sure that there are quite a number of players, and not nessarily only the “older” ones who would be happier with a lighter schedule. Hearn will tell you that they don’t have to enter everything, which is true, but the way the rankings work, they are in fact  forced to enter everything or about, which is exactly what Hearn wants because it’s what the sponsors and the bookies want.

Ronnie’s plans for the future

Once again Phil Haigh has conducted a great interview, this time with Ronnie about how he sees his future in snooker.

Thank you Phil!

Ronnie O’Sullivan plans to drop off tour in three years and create new events for ageing players

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Ronnie O’Sullivan may play in major events for just three more years (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has given himself ‘three or four years maximum’ competing on the main snooker tour, before he plans to create different events for players who are slightly past their peak.

The Rocket is the reigning world champion and remains the sport’s biggest star, but feels his time at the top is coming to an end.

The 45-year-old can clearly still compete at the elite level, as he proved at the Crucible this summer, but he is feeling the strain of the relentless snooker calendar and does not expect to keep up a packed schedule for much longer.

From 16 November to 20 December this year, four tournaments were played without a day between each of them, highlighting just how busy players’ diaries have become.

O’Sullivan says he can’t and won’t keep up with this schedule into his 50s, despite wanting to keep playing the game that he loves, so he has come up with a plan.

The six-time world champion wants to assemble a few players at similar stages of their careers and put together a set of events away from the main tour for ageing greats of the game in a bid to keep the competitive juices flowing.

‘I’ve accepted I’ve got another three or four years maximum of playing top level snooker,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk.

‘I don’t want to play much longer than that, so the next three years I just want to enjoy with an eye on playing on a tour that is maybe a bit more suited to how much I want to play. So I can compete but I’m not going to be a slave to playing tournament after tournament.

‘I can’t play and compete the way it is at the moment, they’re literally playing every day. It is every day. It doesn’t seem like there’s a separation from one tournament to the next.

I would still like to play into my mid-50s, I still think I could make maximums and play to a very high standard, I don’t think I’m going to be able to compete week-in-week-out, physically you just don’t recover.

‘I’ve noticed if I go deep into a tournament now, then for two or three days I’m knackered. I can’t keep up with the younger people, it’s not so much of a physical thing, it’s more of a mental and just an age thing.

‘I suppose at some point there’s going to be a few players in my age bracket feeling the same way. I think Marco Fu has decided to jack it in, staying in Hong Kong. James Wattana too. All very, very good players but it’s an age thing, you just get to an age where the mind says “yeah I can do it” but the body can’t keep up.’

The Seniors Tour is available to players over 40 who are no longer competing at the top end of the main tour, but the Rocket wants to plug a gap between the two.

He recognises it would be for a small group of players, but has plans to make it work for those not willing to go through the rigours of the main tour, but are still too good for the Seniors.

‘Obviously there’s the exhibition circuit that I can always do, but it’s nice to have a platform to play,’ Ronnie explained. ‘A little bit like the Seniors Tour, but I don’t think I’m ready for the Seniors, I’d like to do something a bit in between, where players are still capable of making 147s and playing to a very high standard, but we’re all on a level playing field.

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O’Sullivan won a sixth world title in August (Picture: PA)

‘So it might be eight or 10 tournaments, something on those lines. It’s for when I’ve finished on the main tour but I still want to play but I’m probably not good enough or young enough to compete on a level playing field with the rest of them.

I think it would be unfair to go on the Seniors Tour, but I think there’s a gap in the middle for an 8-man event, 12-man event. Playing against people who are a little bit older but not past their sell-by date and can still play well enough.

‘They just can’t travel, aren’t fit enough or haven’t got the energy or motivation to go from one tournament to the next. It is a young man’s game now, whether you like it or not.

‘I’m not saying the younger players are better, because they’re probably not, you’ve still got a lot of 40-45 year olds playing the best snooker. But it doesn’t become about who’s the best, it becomes about who can outlast each other, who can recover quicker. Obviously a 25-year-old can recover quicker than a 45-year-old.

‘That’s why I say there’s somewhere in the middle with the right amount of playing so you can prepare right and perform to a very, very high level.’

If this plan doesn’t come together, O’Sullivan says retirement is looking likely in three years, despite still wanting to play the game.

That would be something I’d look at at some point to hopefully carry on playing snooker and if that’s not possible then I would definitely retire after three years because it’s just impossible for me to do it from a stamina point of view,’ he said.

O’Sullivan would have to recruit some fellow players to remove themselves from the main tour and join his events, something that he recognises will be a difficult process.

He wants to create a competitive structure for a specific set of players, but these players can still earn huge amounts of money on the main tour.

While Ronnie says he is not financially driven, it is not going to be easy to attract professionals away from their home at World Snooker to back his new venture.

‘I can’t speak for the likes of [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins and I’m not talking about breakaway tours because I’ve already said I’d play for nothing, it’s not like a money thing,’ the world champ said.

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John Higgins turned professional in the same year as Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Obviously if other people were to come on it they wouldn’t play for nothing, but for me it’s not about money, it’s just that I enjoy what I do.

I’ve got a hardcore of fans that enjoy watching me play and I feel that I’ve got a duty to them, in a way, to only retire when I feel that it’s the right time to retire.

It wouldn’t be a rival tour, because you’ve got the elite 128 players that are competing every day, but for me to prolong my career I’d definitely have to hand in my card, but I’m happy to play for nothing.

‘I know that it wouldn’t be for nothing, I’m sure sponsors and TV and the right management in place, they’d provide all that sort of stuff, all I want to do is play snooker. But I want to enjoy what I do and that’s the key.

I definitely think I can possibly get two or three more years as it is, but then after that…I could still compete, I know that, but it would become too much hard work and I probably wouldn’t enjoy it that much. I think the key is to find a happy medium.

O’Sullivan is playing as much tournament snooker as he has for a number of years, entering nearly every event so far this season, so his drive to play is unquestionably intact.

He has spoken in the past of fear driving him on to compete, the fear of failure and not living up to his own exacting standards, but that is no longer a motivation for him.

The Rocket plays without that pressure on himself anymore, or at least without feeling it as much as he did, and while that allows him to enjoy the game more and be more care-free, he does admit it has taken away some of his killer instinct and a sharpness in his game.

‘I obviously have a lot less to prove, I don’t have anything to prove,’ he said. ‘But I think with that loss of fear…I’ve always said that fear drove me on to want to play well and to put the extra hours in, to devote myself to snooker.

When you do that you get such tunnel vision and for the last five years I haven’t had that approach. It’s worked for me, in a way, I’ve been much more relaxed, but I think you get to the point where maybe that intensity isn’t there enough of the time.

I don’t know if it’s lack of crowds but I just feel like I’m missing the odd ball I wasn’t missing before. Against 95% of the tour I might get away with it, but against Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Mark Selby I’m just not going to get away with it against them.

‘Against all the other guys I will and have got away with it but If I’m to compete with them three then I’ve got to erase them errors.’

The “bold” highligths are my doing, as usual.

Ronnie’s statement that it would be unfair to play in the Seniors Tour is neither arrogant, nor contemptuous.

It is certain that, if he did compete in the Seniors tour, it would attract a lot of fans, but on the other hand it might drive a lot of seniors players away from that tour, the amateurs in particular. As it is, the Seniors Tour can’t afford to scrap entry fees. Would they still enter events if they feel they have no chance?

The Seniors Tour has produced, great moments and great stories for the over-40 amateurs: Aaron Canavan, an amateur from Jersey, someone who had only rarely played outside the Channel Islands, became a World Champion, Rodney Goggins from Ireland, played a Final in Goffs, in front of a full house, Michael Judge became UK Champion, beating Jimmy White in the final. The Tour’s motto is “Dare to Dream”. If players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark William were to compete in it, in a close future, it would probably kill the dream for many, and they wouldn’t enter as they wouldn’t probably believe that they stand any chance.

It has also offered Greats from the past who are really past it, fantastic opportunities to shine again. Jimmy White struggles to win any match on the Main Tour nowadays, but he is the reigning Seniors Champion, having finally lifted a World trophy at the Crucible last year. Cliff Thorburn won the Seniors Masters at the Crucible, aged 70, and it was an incredibly emotional moment. It mattered so much to Cliff. Their ability may decline, but the competitive spirtit never goes.

Those thing could be destroyed if players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark Williams started racking all the trophies. They may no more be at their best, or willing to compete day-in day-out, but they are still far too good for the Seniors Tour in its current form. So, yes, maybe, something in-between would be a good idea and one that could work for everyone.

What would Ronnie on Christmas day?

Phil Haigh had a chat with Ronnie the other day, and, amongst other things asked him what he was going to do on Christmas day. Here is the answer.

Ronnie O’Sullivan will spend Christmas Day at a food bank: ‘All you can do is do your bit’

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Ronnie O’Sullivan is hoping to make a difference away from the table this Christmas (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan is spending the festive period helping out with charity work, visiting a food bank on Christmas Day and making deliveries in the build up to 25 December.

The Rocket has had a busy schedule on the snooker table since winning his sixth World Championship title in the summer, competing in almost every event this season and reaching the finals of the Northern Ireland and Scottish Opens.

It is a rare couple of weeks off for the world champ but he is not putting his feet up during the rest period and will be helping out some friends in their charity endeavours.

It’s not the first time O’Sullivan has been involved with charity work, but he has felt all the more encouraged to do so thanks to the pandemic and the uncertainty of lockdown this year.

Regularly a Labour voter over the years, O’Sullivan would not be drawn on his opinion of the current Government, but feels the confusion this year has encouraged him to turn his attention to personal, local issues that he can impact himself.

‘I’m generally more liberal and have sided with Labour, but I’ve never really thought Governments can make changes,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk. ‘I don’t know anymore, honestly I just keep my head down.

‘Christmas Day we’re going to be doing a food bank with my friend, handing out food, later on today [Tuesday] I’m going to help a friend doing deliveries to people that ain’t got food.

‘I think all you can do is do your bit and stay true to what you can do. Whatever goes on goes on in the political system.

‘I don’t know, mate, I just like to keep my head down and focus on what I can do. Hopefully they have a ripple effect. Like today, if I can change one or two people’s lives, just make them a bit better by taking them some food they wouldn’t normally have, then that’s great.

‘On Christmas Day, if 50-100 people are eating, having a nice day and I’ve had a little impact there, then great.’

O’Sullivan knows he has been more fortunate than many this year, continuing to play snooker as and when he wants but also having time to rediscover his love of running and getting his trainers on much more regularly than he has been.

While the World Championship is the only silverware he has lifted in 2020, it is the richest prize in the game and he feels that his fitness has helped his snooker.

‘Lockdown’s been alright for me, to be honest. I’ve really just got stuck into my running, so it’s been a massive positive for me,’ he explained.

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O’Sullivan claimed a sixth world title in August (Picture: PA)

‘I forgot how much I used to love running, competing in races. It’s allowed me to get back into training. Even in Milton Keynes over the last three months, I had a really good training group in Tring, running seven, eight, nine miles every day, so I was getting really fit.

‘Even when I would come back from Milton Keynes and I’d have four or five days indoors, I just felt like I couldn’t do it, just four days! If you had two or three months, you can get institutionalised after a while, you get used to not going out so you don’t go out. Whereas I’m quite an active person so I find if I break that routine up I’ll struggle. So wherever I go I try and keep that up.

‘The foundations, the principles of my life haven’t changed much, I like to keep fit, get up early, get my work done, I like to have routine. If you have a good routine it leads to positives and being the best you can be.’

Snooker will never be a sport that requires physical fitness for success, but it certainly helps, even if they are small, incremental gains.

‘I’ve always felt better if I feel fit and healthy,’ said Ronnie. ‘Even if it’s just putting clothes on, putting a suit on, if you feel in good shape, everything feels snug, you feel better about yourself.

‘If you’re carrying a few extra pounds, the waistcoat is a struggle, the trousers are tight round the waist, that can chip away at your confidence a little bit. If you do a lot of things that make you feel good about yourself, you’re likely to play a bit better or at least feel better.’

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O’Sullivan remains by far the biggest draw in his sport (Picture: Getty Images)

The six-time world champion came up short at the weekend’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, not making the top three which was made up of Lewis Hamilton, Jordan Henderson and Hollie Doyle.

The Rocket didn’t attend the ceremony, and while he admits part of him would have liked to have claimed the prize, he is not exactly fussed and is glad he didn’t bother making the trip.

‘No, not really,’ said Ronnie when asked if he was bothered about losing out. ‘Obviously I had a slight interest [in winning] you never know, I might have got lucky,

‘But yeah it was good fun, it was fun to be part of, you know. I quite enjoyed having the team of people come to where I was staying.

‘It’s really hard because I only get so much time and I’m a real nightmare for being selfish in what I want to do and how I spend my time.

‘I never go to awards, I don’t really want to. I’d go to a charity bash, if it’s for a good cause, but not awards, I’d have to take my whole day out, no running, no practice, no work.

‘I’ve got no interest, really, to go and sit in a room full of other sports people. Listen, it’s great that they won and got their awards but I’ve never really bought into that sort of stuff. I’m glad I didn’t go, really. I’ve been invited for the last 28 years and I haven’t gone once so I didn’t see why I should change that.’

O’Sullivan may not be overly fussed about awards ceremonies, but he didn’t go as far as Tyson Fury in asking to be removed from the shortlist for SPOTY.

The world heavyweight champion claimed he did not need an award to tell him who he was or validate his achievements.

The Rocket sees where the Gypsy King is coming from, though, saying: ‘Tyson’s his own person. I’d never knock anyone, I think as a sportsman he’s fantastic, what he’s done is brilliant.

‘He’s got his own reasons why he wanted to do it. I understand where he’s coming from. He’s got a very, very good fanbase of people that love him for what he is.

‘He hasn’t bought into conforming: say the right thing, do the right thing. He’s got his own rules.

‘People have supported him and he feels a loyalty towards them and he feels like he didn’t want them type of accolades. He gets more of a buzz out of supporting people from a mental health background and be a motivational person, so I get where he’s coming from.’

Boxing - Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury - WBC Heavyweight Title - The Grand Garden Arena at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, United States - February 22, 2020 Tyson Fury poses with his belts during a press conference after the fight REUTERS/Steve Marcus TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tyson Fury is happy to polarise opinion (Picture: REUTERS)

Fury and O’Sullivan may well appeal to a similar kind of crowd, with their happiness to do and say what they want rather than worry about how it may look or sound.

When parallels between the pair were put to the Rocket, he felt that there has been no better example of people being drawn to the outspoken than in America in recent years.

‘I’ve never really thought of it really,’ Ronnie said of his comparison to Tyson. ‘But if you look at it with Donald Trump and [Joe] Biden. Donald Trump still had 75 million people that liked his ways, that wanted to support him.

‘I suppose if you look at it, it’s what camp you’re in, there always seems to be two camps. It’s just where your personality fits.

‘You always have some people who like the straight-laced, don’t put a foot wrong. Then the other camp thinks, “you know what, that’s not real, they’re not saying what they really want to say.”

‘They probably find it a bit refreshing when someone else comes along and says what everybody’s thinking, if you like. It can be refreshing.

‘I think I’ve kind of learned to keep my mouth shut and stick to my core values and don’t be bothered what other people are up to. Understand that there are going to be polarised views and just accept that and I don’t try and force my views on anyone.

‘I don’t do social media, I don’t look at comments, I just build my own little moat, my own little castle and just try not to display everything out there. Sometimes it’s good to keep things a bit closer to you rather than letting it out so much.’

Just some personal thoughts about this interview, and Ronnie’s reflection about who people really are and what they say. The “blanket political correctness” that has been enforced in the media, in social media and, in general, in our lives has made the bed for the likes of Trump. The absolute crass populism. A lot of people fall for it, they see these guys as “authentic”, and close to themselves, whilst, if you look at the way they live their lives and at their goals, they are anything but persons of the people. Not allowing people to express certain feelings is not going to make those feelings disappear, on the contrary,  it will only exacerbate them, and populists play on the frustration generated by the need to repress them. Actually, listening, trying to understand even what you can’t agree with them and talking it through is the only way to build acceptance and tolerance towards the “different”. And, remember, hate, quite often is actually fuelled by fear.

This from someone who turned 14 in 1968 … and lived her teens through the flower power “revolution”. We fought for freedom, peace and love. Yes, it was an utopia, I know that. But how did we end up giving birth to political correctness? I’m not sure, and I’m pretty horrified.

I hope you will forgive me the above political/sociological outing  on this special day …

Merry Christmas!

Ronnie speaks SPOTY, sporting heroes … being a bit provocative at times and snooker.

So here goes … by the Daily Mail

Sports Personality contender Ronnie O’Sullivan opens up on Fury, Formula One and feeling superhuman

That trademark mischievous grin breaks out across Ronnie O’Sullivan’s face as he is reminded of one of his most colourful comments of the year.

It was back in August — and on his way to winning a sixth World Championship title — that he said snooker’s young players were so bad he would need to ‘lose an arm and a leg to fall outside the top 50’.

Four months on and sitting on his sofa at home in Essex, wrapped up in a festive red blanket patterned with reindeer, the Rocket’s smile lights up the screen.

Ronnie O'Sullivan has opened up on being a contender for this year's Sports Personality award
The snooker supremo discusses his competition, how there's no real competition in Formula One and how he has a lot in common with Tyson Fury

Ronnie O’Sullivan has opened up on being a contender for this year’s Sports Personality award

O'Sullivan, who won his sixth world title in August, can often feel 'superhuman' at the table

O’Sullivan, who won his sixth world title in August, can often feel ‘superhuman’ at the table

‘I suppose I am a little bit like Tyson, I just say things for a bit of a laugh really,’ he admits over Zoom, referring to his fellow BBC Sports Personality of the Year contender Fury, who we will come to later on.

‘Sometimes I actually believe it when I’m saying it, that’s the weird thing. That supreme confidence that has been jabbed into me. You come off the table after a certain performance and you feel like a superhuman. You feel like you are capable of anything.

‘But then when you wake up the next morning you think, “Cor, could I really compete in the top 50 with one arm and one leg? Probably not!”. You probably say certain things where in hindsight you think, “Cor, I must have been feeling good when I said that!”.’

At the Crucible, O’Sullivan was also branded ‘selfish’ by Judd Trump after saying players were being treated like ‘lab rats’, then ‘disrespectful’ by Mark Selby for the way he tried to hit-and-hope his way out of snookers in their semi-final.

So, given his penchant for provoking fellow professionals, does he think they will be voting him SPOTY on Sunday night?

O'Sullivan has a penchant for provoking fellow professionals while at the snooker table

O’Sullivan has a penchant for provoking fellow professionals while at the snooker table

At the Crucible, O¿Sullivan was also branded ¿selfish¿ by Judd Trump (pictured) after saying players were being treated like ¿lab rats¿
He was also branded as ¿disrespectful¿ by Mark Selby (pictured) for the way he tried to hit-and-hope his way out of snookers in their semi-final

At the Crucible, he was branded ‘selfish’ by Judd Trump (left) after saying players were being treated like ‘lab rats’, then ‘disrespectful’ by Mark Selby (right) for his semi-final display.

‘Listen, within the snooker world everyone who knows me, knows me and even the ones who maybe quite dislike me, they don’t really dislike me,’ says the 45-year-old, who lost to Selby in the Scottish Open final last Sunday.

‘They might want to dislike me but they find it hard to in many ways.‘I don’t give them much reason. They know the real me. They know I love to compete and I work hard and I think that’s why they respect me more than anything.

‘Yeah, I say certain things but it’s just a bit of fish and chip paper. And sometimes I say certain things to try to motivate the younger generation to try to make themselves better.’

O’Sullivan’s feather-ruffling routine only adds to his public popularity, much like Fury, who asked to be taken off the SPOTY shortlist because he said he was already the ‘people’s champion’.‘I just think he’s a bit tongue in cheek sometimes,’ says O’Sullivan about the British boxer. ‘He’s just having a laugh. I don’t think he is genuinely serious.

‘If Tyson was to win it, he would receive the award in a gracious sort of manner. I just think he is a character who wakes up one morning and thinks, “This is how I’m feeling today and this is what I want to say”. I don’t think he meant any harm by it.’

The Rocket and Tyson Fury are clearly kindred spirits ¿ as outspoken as they are outstanding

The Rocket and Tyson Fury are clearly kindred spirits – as outspoken as they are outstanding

The Rocket and the Gypsy King are clearly kindred spirits. As outspoken as they are outstanding. Working-class world champions who have battled demons and overcome addictions.

‘I’ve met him a couple of times and he is a really nice, down-to-earth guy,’ adds O’Sullivan, who advised Fury on sports psychology ahead of his comeback fight in June 2018.

‘The comeback from where he was to where he is now is inspiring and his boxing ability is unquestionable. I don’t think there has been a heavyweight like him for a long, long time. He has been great for British sport and global sport.

‘He’s a street fighter. He’s like, “You want to fight me? Where and what time?” He comes from the world where the gypsy families kind of get it on.

‘He took Deontay Wilder on in that manner. Most people didn’t want to get in the ring with Wilder. He said, “Give me six months, let me lose some weight so I can at least give you half a decent fight”. It is great and refreshing.

‘Ayrton Senna summed it up in his documentary. They asked him who his greatest opponent was and he said it was in his karting days. The documentary brought me to tears. He is probably my sporting hero after watching that.

A documentary on Brazilian Formula One icon Ayrton Senna brought O'Sullivan to tears

A documentary on Brazilian Formula One icon Ayrton Senna brought O’Sullivan to tears

‘It was pure racing and I relate to that because in some ways I enjoy the exhibitions when we are playing for fun. I’m not scared of falling off the tour. I’m not scared of not winning matches. Where I play and who I play is irrelevant, really, as long as I get my cue out and play.’

Mention of Senna brings us on to another of O’Sullivan’s rivals for the BBC award — the bookies’ favourite Lewis Hamilton, who this year surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record of Grand Prix wins and has matched his haul of seven Formula One titles.

Asked who he would vote for, O’Sullivan replies: ‘You’d probably have to say Lewis Hamilton for breaking the record. I’d say between him and Tyson. It depends what the award is for, because sometimes the message gets lost. Is it for sporting brilliance? Is it for personality? Is it for your achievements within your sport? Nobody really knows.’

This surprise sports anorak then issues his opinions about the state of Formula One. ‘It’s amazing to do what Hamilton has done but you tune out of Formula One because it’s a race, really, against two people. The only person who can in theory give Hamilton a go is Valtteri Bottas (his Mercedes team-mate), but Hamilton is mentally tougher than Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton is also up for Sports Personality of the Year award for his achievements in F1

Lewis Hamilton is also up for Sports Personality of the Year award for his achievements in F1

Hamilton missed the Sakhir Grand Prix after contracting the coronavirus
George Russell filled in for his compatriot at Mercedes and did superbly in Hamilton's absence

However, O’Sullivan has question the competition in F1 following George Russell’s (right) performance in Hamilton’s (left) car while he was out sick with the coronavirus

‘When George Russell got in the Mercedes, he should have won the race and in his other car he was coming pretty much last every race. So it just shows how important the car is. You think, “Is there any point in watching it because there is no competition?”.’

Hamilton won SPOTY in 2014 and has been runner-up four times. In contrast, this is the first time O’Sullivan has even made the shortlist.

O’Sullivan has not even attended the usually star-studded show.

‘I don’t really like meeting my heroes,’ he admits. ‘A couple of times I’ve been offered to meet people who have been my heroes and I’ve said I’d rather not in case they disappoint you a little bit. I tend not to want to meet people unless it just happens naturally. I’m not a great talker, I’m not one of these who go around making conversations with people. I’m not a social animal.’

O’Sullivan hopes to be at the more low-key affair in Salford this year, although he could be playing in the final of the World Grand Prix in Milton Keynes, which would make presenting him a prize interesting for the BBC.

O¿Sullivan has not even attended the usually star-studded Sports Personality of the Year show

O’Sullivan has not even attended the usually star-studded Sports Personality of the Year show

He believes the reason behind snooker’s drought in SPOTY is down to the sport’s venues

He would be the first snooker player since Stephen Hendry in 1990 to finish in the top three and the first since Steve Davis in 1988 to win it. So what does he think is behind his sport’s SPOTY drought?

‘Years ago we played in fantastic, iconic venues every tournament and it added a bit of class to the sport,’ he replies. ‘Nowadays it’s maybe lost that. We play in leisure centres. I’ve got nothing against Milton Keynes but you are basically on a retail park. Would Wimbledon be as exciting if it was played in Crawley?

‘A lot of it is the perception that people have. It’s just not as globally appealing as some sports. I wish I’d been around when it was really popular in the 80s.’ It was only last month that O’Sullivan claimed he had ‘zero interest’ in the annual award. But now he adds: ‘I’d just accepted that I’d never get nominated. They didn’t have many sporting events this year, so I probably sneaked in the back door.

‘This is a great recognition for all sports people, but I always said the most important awards are the ones you win on the table.

‘I always looked up to Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, but it was because of the titles they won, not because of Sports Personality of the Year.’

BBC Sports Personality of the Year is on BBC One on Sunday from 8pm.

The 2020 UK Championship – Judd Trump about the conditions

Judd Trump was far from his best yesterday in beating Liang Wenbo, despite the 6-1 scoreline. He has been speaking to Phil Haigh about the main table conditions and how it may have contributed to Ronnie’s defeat over the weekend.

Ronnie O’Sullivan struggled with UK Championship conditions, says Judd Trump

2020 Players Championship - Day 7
Judd Trump feels the conditions are not helpful for break-building at the UK Championship (Picture: Getty Images)

Judd Trump feels the conditions at the UK Championship have proved to be a struggle for the top players and cost Ronnie O’Sullivan in his shock exit from the tournament on Sunday.

The world number one has been reasonably untroubled on his path to the last 16 so far, seeing off Paul Davison, Dominic Dale and Liang Wenbo to set up a clash with either Mark Williams or Ricky Walden.

The Rocket has not made it that far, though, after losing 6-5 to Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 64 on Sunday afternoon.

The world champion was a long way from his best against the Swiss and paid the price as he was pipped in a deciding frame.

Trump feels that conditions were against O’Sullivan, though, when asked if we were likely to see a 147 break over the rest of the tournament, the Bristolian said it will not be happening on the TV table.

Not on that table, I’d be surprised,’ Trump told Eurosport after beating Liang. ‘Maybe on one of the other tables or when the table gets re-clothed.

I think it showed in the Ronnie game yesterday, he struggled with it and we both struggled today.

I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s a bit cold, a bit damp out there, the balls are going horrible and it’s tough.’

Trump himself wasn’t at the peak of his powers either, making three half-centuries but no tons against Liang.

‘It was a struggle, I watched some of the snooker on the TV, the table’s very heavy and slow,’ he said.

It kind of dictates how the frames go, the balls are going scrappy and it’s not until there’s a couple of reds left that you’re able to do anything.

‘I managed to pot the odd ball here and there. It was scrappy, I was just managing to play the better safety and take my chances more.’

Welsh Open 2020 - Day 6
Ronnie O’Sullivan struggled at the UK Championship on Sunday (Picture: VCG via Getty Images)

O’Sullivan did not really mention conditions after losing to Ursenbacher, simply saying he didn’t play well and the world number 66 did.

‘I am not going to make excuses – the guy played well and good luck to the fella. Hopefully he can go on and win a few more matches,’ said the Rocket.

‘I wasn’t that frustrated, I just could not pot any balls. I felt embarrassed and could not put anything together.’

Well, well … Liang Wenbo didn’t play anywhere as well as Alexander Ursenbacher, but it’s worth noticing that Alex had only one break over 50 himself.

Yes, it was pretty obvious that the conditions aren’t suiting the touch players, those who like to caress the balls rather than hitting them.

Ronnie looked tired from the on, and was clearly out of sorts, but, if  Judd Trump is right, the table conditions surely didn’t help either. It was obvious that Ronnie was hitting  the ball harder than he usually does.

I can’t see why Judd would make that up; he won quite comfortably. He was probably disappointed about the failed maximum, but still. When a player just lost, fans tend to see any complain as an “excuse”, even if the complain is actually justified. But when a player has won, their complains are usually accepted as valid.

Actually, Judd mentions only Ronnie but the same probably applies to Ding Junhui and Mark Allen. Their game is built around touch and precise positional play at close range. Mark Allen, of course, played on an outside table, but if the issue is caused by dampness in the venue, the conditions might be similar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take anything away from Alex Ursenbacher, David Grace and Chang Bingyu. They were the better players on the day, and all three showed tremendous fighting qualities. They also showed their mental strength as all three matches went to a deciding frame. But maybe, only maybe, for once, being used to play on the usually heavier  outside tables was an advantage.

Everything has been difficult this season, and we should be grateful to WST as they work so hard to get snooker going despite the covid-19 crisis. But, if  the conditions are that difficult and bad, it’s a shame for the tournament, the second biggest ranking event in the calendar.

Anyway it is what is is … and at least, well, it IS on.

Desmond Kane reflects upon Ronnie’s return to the top … and gets quite lyrical😉

As we have a day off at the 2020 UK Championship … You feel bored?  Missing the snooker? here is something to read.

UK CHAMPIONSHIP 2020: ‘I FEEL LIKE I’M KING OF MY CASTLE’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON EPIC RETURN TO TOP

BY DESMOND KANE

A revitalised Ronnie O’Sullivan has found a fresh passion for potting and is performing better than ever in his fourth decade at the snooker summit. The six-times defending world champion tells Desmond Kane how he potted and plotted his return to glory in the year of the pandemic. His year could yet get better as he targets an eighth UK Championship at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

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For Ronnie O’Sullivan, the world is not enough. Not when he has fallen in love with his time-served passion for potting all over again. At the venerable snooker age of 44, a juncture when most professionals are on the wane as former glories frustratingly fade into the framed fug of yesteryear and dewy-eyed folklore, the world champion seems to just be getting warmed up.

“I wish I could have enjoyed playing like this earlier on in my career. I’ve had so much fun,” he said after losing 9-7 to Judd Trump in an epic Northern Ireland Open final having contributed two centuries and five breaks over 50 in a narrow defeat.

While Trump is world number one after lifting a whopping 11 ranking events over the past two years, the big one eluded him last season. It is a rejuvenated O’Sullivan who again holds snooker’s most coveted prize six years after his fifth Crucible triumph in Sheffield.

His status as the greatest player of all time was already secured due to his astonishing longevity and an incomparable mastering of his modern art form. His ongoing brilliance in brandishing a cue is perhaps comparable in genius to Pablo Picasso clutching a paintbrush and projecting an inspired soul.

O’Sullivan specialises in snooker surrealism beyond the confines of a 12ft by 6ft table. His next canvas is the UK Championship in Milton Keynes where he hopes to splash some colour over a record eighth trophy. It would be a special end to a year that has witnessed O’Sullivan conquer the Crucible while searching for a cue action that has stood the test of time.

The big events are the yardstick, the three things that never change in snooker,” O’Sullivan tells Eurosport. “That is the only true measure of where you stand in the game. The important records are the World Championship, the Masters and the UK. Obviously how many times you have won them marks you out. Jack Nicklaus has got 18 majors in golf, six of them came in the Masters, five in the US PGA, four US Opens and three British Opens.

“That applies the same to snooker. So, to have the record of winning 20 majors, six world titles, seven UKs and seven Masters – I’ve got three out of the four important records. Hendry still has seven world titles, but I’m not greedy. I’m happy to have hit them spots and get the job done in the important events.”

THE PEOPLE AROUND ME SAY I’M CRAZY, ‘WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ANYMORE?’

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Snooker is about the narrative, growing with the story. It doesn’t have to be fast and furious,” the six-times world champion Steve Davis once remarked. O’Sullivan has become the main protagonist of that narrative.

Such has been the enduring, ongoing adroitness of Rocket Ronnie, it is easy to forget that he had yet to win his first world title before he overcame his close friend and fierce foe John Higgins 18-14 in the 2001 final aged 25 at the Crucible Theatre. Yet here he is two decades on, prowling the table like he is in the first flush of youth, like a fictional melding of Fast Eddie Felson and Benjamin Button of the old green baize, playing out a generation game with his generation like no other sportsman.

The angles have not and will not wither him. Like the formidable Welsh potter Cliff Wilson, he is not one for holding back when the mood takes him as a timeless trend-setter. There remains a youthfulness, a creative ambition and a vital sense of adventure about his play that truly is something to behold in any field of sporting excellence. In any field of professional sport.

Higgins – the four-times Crucible champion from Scotland – himself made from girders, turned professional alongside O’Sullivan 28 years ago and once said that he knew his fellow ‘Class of 92’ graduate was destined for greatness when he first witnessed him at the age of 15 because he gave off a glow like “the Ready Brek man”.

Despite yearning for the cathedral city of York, traditional home of the UK Championship, O’Sullivan has been relocated and reinvigorated behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, his self-belief emboldened by claiming the World Championship with an 18-8 final filleting of Kyren Wilson, a player 16 years younger, in a quite August. His sixth title came after a six-year wait in potting purgatory.

“Playing snooker, most of the people around me say I’m crazy, why are you bothering anymore?” he tells Eurosport. “But I always say to them, it isn’t going to be forever. While I can do it with one arm and one leg and still compete, I’ll play snooker. Listen, I have a bit of fun with it.

“The way I approach it is if I get to a tournament and don’t feel like it, it doesn’t matter if I win or lose. But there are times when I really, really love it and I want to play and I’ll put 100 percent effort in. It all depends on what side of the bed you get out of sometimes. I just let a bad day turn into a really bad day and get home a little bit earlier. But when the good days are there, I keep going with those ones.”

The good ones continue to vastly outnumber the bad ones for O’Sullivan, particularly in the latter half of his career. He continues to find fresh ground with endless possibilities and prospects in a career trajectory which is nowhere near its final denouement, totalling a record 37 ranking titles including seven Masters and seven UKs to go with the half a dozen world crowns snagged over four pristine decades of play. Snared in his teens, 20s, 30s and 40s, it is quite a dynasty of World Snooker Tour’s Triple Crown series. Sometimes it seems as though there is nowhere he hasn’t spread his green baize gospel amid a salivating fan base which transcends the sport.

Put quite simply, the opposition are nowhere near being good enough to retire him.

It is easy to gush when you study O’Sullivan’s majestic levels of form that has wrought over 1050 centuries, the most of any player in history. It is also difficult to suggest the year of the pandemic has provided him with some sort of snooker renaissance, because he has never really gone away.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD AGAIN

Much of O’Sullivan’s appetite for the game has been sated by making good on his promise to right the wrongs of 2014, a year that seemed to signal the death knell on his hopes of joining Davis and Ray Reardon as a six-times world champion. After his latest rousing victory, matching Stephen Hendry’s scintillating seven-year stretch between 1990 and 1999 is no longer a foolhardy notion.

During coronavirus lockdown, O’Sullivan ended up sporting a Merv Hughes-type moustache, but was also busy explaining to Hendry on Instagram that he had real regrets about the past. “The match I’d like to play again would be Selby in the 2014 final because I’d have played it differently,” he said in June. “I would have done everything I could to not get bogged down and keep the game open. When I looked back, I thought I’d got sucked into his game. It wasn’t until after that game that I thought, ‘yeah I might lose to you and I probably will lose to you again, but it’s going to be on my terms’.

It was perhaps written in the Crucible light bulbs then that he would again confront the three-times world champion Selby this year with the whole shooting match on the table before O’Sullivan decided to go all in.

O’Sullivan came into their semi-final arguably as second favourite despite wins over Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Ding Junhui and Mark Williams on his sojourn to face the only player to defeat him in world, Masters and UK finals.

It was his first experience of the fabled one-table set-up at the venue in over half a decade having lost two quarter-finals to Ding Junhui and Stuart Bingham, two last-16 matches to Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins respectively and a shocking first-round amateur defeat to James Cahill a year earlier when the magnitude of the moment seemed to visibly disturb him.

The 44th staging of the delayed World Championship was by common consent an elongated, excruciating event that looked beyond his attention span if not his ability. Selby was once described by O’Sullivan as “the torturer” and the sport’s most taut and tortuous contest of the year would provide him with a road out of potting perdition.

O’Sullivan was staring into the abyss trailing 16-14 in a contest that saw Selby’s tactical supremacy largely dominate as he led at various junctures – most notably 13-9 on the final day. He was on the cusp of another crushing failure against a hardened, no-frills professional nicknamed the ‘Jester from Leicester’ with little scope for humour on the table.

Selby had decimated his dreams when he recovered from trailing 10-5 to win the world final 18-14 in 2014, a defeat built on starving O’Sullivan of chances and momentum. He forced him to wilt and wait amid a potting purgatory that left O’Sullivan wondering if he still possessed the minerals to conquer the green baize equivalent of K2.

O’Sullivan performed in fits and starts in their latest Crucible joust, with both hands and haste, yet still translated desire into fulfilment with his usual élan, mischief, nonchalance but most poignantly an unwillingness to bend and break, to yield in time. First in, best dressed. Faced with certain defeat, O’Sullivan was an Englishman who went up the side of a mountain but came down a hill as his long game suddenly became impregnable with several blistering pots and awe-inspiring breaks of 138, 71 and 64 in three prodigious closing frames. Then came one of the most telling safety shots in Crucible history helping win him the final before the final with a rousing finale.

His thoughts of early summer and his promises to repair the damage done by his previous scarring loss to Selby were ripe on the vine in the autumn of his aspirations.

At some point you think, I’ve been here for three days. He’s got the better of me and if it continues going like this, he’s probably going to win this match,” recalls O’Sullivan. “I needed to try to win it on my terms. The only way I was going to do that was trying to play the perfect snooker really. Score big breaks and pot well – I only needed to find a good 30 or 40 minutes really. I needed three quick frames and I could get the job done. Back to the wall, and sometimes you find your best snooker when you are put in that situation.

NO SLOWING DOWN

UKC2020-ROS-4

In the first 19 years of his gilded professional career between 1992 until 2011, O’Sullivan lifted 11 of the Triple Crown events on terrestrial TV – three world titles, four Masters and four UKs. In the past eight years, he has carried off one every year raising his total to 20 with another three worlds, three Masters and three UKs. All this was achieved beyond the age of 35, a juncture where players are supposed to be married with kids and slowing down. O’Sullivan has never taken his eyes off the balls.

Nor has he slowed down. He is vying with the Thai speed merchant Un-Nooh as the sport’s fastest player with an average shot time under 18 seconds, mainly because his cue ball control is tighter than two coats of paint. His imaginative outlook has buffeted him from the ravages of time with his natural ambition to attack, even in safety exchanges, a key to his powers of endurance. When you consider he also sat out the 2012/13 season between his fourth and fifth world titles, this is a startling level of commitment and consistency.

Davis was on his last legs as a tournament winner when he won the 1997 Masters at the age of 39 with a 10-8 win over O’Sullivan while Hendry’s 36th and final ranking event came at the 2005 Malta Cup only weeks after turning 36. For Hendry and Davis, the hardest part was letting go as their dominance faltered.

O’Sullivan has revelled in punditry work for Eurosport over the past six years, analysis nicely book-ended by his world titles, but he knows where he gets his kicks.

O’Sullivan concedes being in the heat of the battle provides an inimitable rush that cannot be emulated by pills or thrills. For O’Sullivan, the action is the juice in a sport that titillates and torments him.

I think every guy deserves to know what it feels like to have a 10-inch ****. I’ve probably had that feeling for quite a long time now. I think I’ve been fortunate in that area to experience that. When I’m buzzing on the snooker table, the sensation feels amazing.

By playing snooker, I feel like I’m the king of my castle,” says O’Sullivan, who toyed with the idea of appearing in Gwrych Castle in Wales in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here before opting for more meaningful stars at the UK Championship. “That’s the drug really, it’s not the money, it’s not the prestige, it’s just that feeling that I’ve got the best **** out of everybody else.

AN EIGHTH UK TITLE?

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His first major title came when he usurped the then unparalleled Hendry 10-6 to win his first UK Championship at the Guild Hall in Preston in November 1993 before washing up on This Morning with Richard and Judy the following day, such was the fascination with his attributes, audaciousness and speed of thought at such a tender age. For the record, the teenager fighting out of Chigwell also defeated Alan McManus, Ken Doherty, Steve Davis and Darren Morgan on his route to a celebrated victory 27 years ago. McManus – who became Masters winner only three months later in 1994 – describes O’Sullivan as “the most talented sportsman in the world” these days. Aged 17 years and 358 days, a star was born. O’Sullivan remains the youngest winner of a ranking event four decades on.

He will turn 45 a day before the UK Championship final concludes on 6 December, a match he will hope to contest as he pursues further garlands in the sport’s second most important ranking event. His campaign began with a quickfire 6-0 victory over Leo Fernandez which took little over an hour.

Why such an evergreen talent has never been nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year is a tragic indictment on human powers of observation, but hope springs eternal this year. In the year of the pandemic, face muzzles and no fans, O’Sullivan has found himself in splendid isolation in his return to glory.

In the epic book Paradise Lost, John Milton concluded that it is “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven” or words to that effect. O’Sullivan will not notice his surroundings if he clasps an eighth UK title to his bosom at the Marshall Arena in MK, a venue he gloomily compares to potting in prison in Covid-19 times.

It should be pointed out that O’Sullivan seems to be in a wonderfully positive frame of mind playing frames. He has battled the black dog of depression, but snooker has provided a constant and a cathartic ally amid his travails which somehow saw him go three years without a ranking event win between the Shanghai Masters in September 2009 and the German Masters in February 2012. At that time, John Higgins even feared O’Sullivan was not far from retirement. How times have changed.

Professor Steve Peters – a specialist in sports psychiatry – continues to play a key role in helping O’Sullivan keep his mental compass pointing in the right direction. His victory at the World Championship was a triumph for mind over matter when you consider he trashed a Crucible dressing room in 2016 and was driven to a hospital in London for treatment after his win over David Gilbert in the first round.

That’s why I always call it snooker depression because you can quickly go down this hole of searching for something and then forgetting,” he explains. “Your mental side goes and as Steve Peters says about your inner chimp, the chimp is running around Tesco. You wouldn’t want that chimpanzee running around Tesco would you? That’s what happens to a lot of snooker players. When their head is gone, they are like crazy animals. How do you manage that mind to think ‘Hold on, this is getting a bit out of hand now, I can’t behave like this, I need to draw it in’.

The sometimes-tortured genius of O’Sullivan performs snooker rather than play it. He is a sculptor as much as a sportsman, perhaps blissfully unaware of the beauty of his craft, but the O’Sullivan Opus remains a work in progress. Will it ever be finished?

Snooker was his first love and may end up his last. The enduring fascination of O’Sullivan’s incompleteness will perhaps continue to endure long beyond a turbulent reign that has provided more mayhem and magic than the most manic of monarchies.

The old king is alive, long live the king.

Desmond Kane

 

Chris Henry about Ronnie …

Ronnie starts his 2020 UK Championship campaign tonight against Leo Fernandez. Leo is a very capable player, but has suffered a lot of injuries during recent years. It’s hard to predict what form he will show coming into the match

Ahead of the match, the ever excellent Phil Haigh spoke with Chris Henry about Ronnie’s future propect 

Ronnie O’Sullivan can compete at the top of snooker for another decade, believes Chris Henry

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan could be around for a long while yet (Picture: Getty Images)

There’s no reason why Ronnie O’Sullivan cannot compete at the very top of snooker for another decade, believes Chris Henry.

The Rocket won his sixth World Championship title this year at the age of 44, climbing back up to number two in the world rankings.

He turns 45 in December, which would traditionally be long past the age of a player challenging for the biggest prizes in the sport.

However, the world champion shows few signs of slowing down and is among the favourites to win the UK Championship over the next two weeks in Milton Keynes.

Henry, who coaches Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy among others, believes that if O’Sullivan continues to look after himself physically, as he has been doing, then he still has many years in the game.

The renowned coach has also worked with top golfers, including Lee Westwood and Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and it is an example from the world of golf that has convinced him the Rocket can continue to soar for a long time to come.

‘If these guys look after themselves…I was talking to Mark Selby about this the other day. I was in Holland a few years ago and I had about an hour with Tom Watson, talking about all kind of things,’ Henry told Metro.co.uk.

‘Look at what he did, he almost won the Open at 59! 59 years of age and he missed out by one shot [at the 2009 Open].

‘Snooker isn’t anywhere near as physical, you’ve got to be strong physically because it helps mentally, but if Tom Watson can do that at 59, there’s no reason why Ronnie O’Sullivan can’t be very competitive in his mid-50s.

‘Bernhard Langer, he was going round with [Rory] McIlroy at the Masters, he’s 63! Fantastic! If you look after yourself, and you’re still motivated to put the practice and work in, snooker and things like golf, there’s no reason you can’t go into your 50s and be competing.’

Not only does Henry feel O’Sullivan can keep going for another 10 or more years, but parts of his game will continue to improve with time and he may be even harder to beat than he is now.

Mentally the Rocket appears in as good a place with his game as ever and the safety and tactical side of his game is not far behind his incredible break-building.

‘I think as he gets older his temperament will get even better,’ Henry explained. ‘I think he’ll calm down a little more, I think he’ll stop taking it as serious and just go out and enjoy it a little bit more.

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Chris Henry has worked with some of the finest in snooker and golf (Picture: Getty Images)

‘That’s when he’ll play his best, when he’s feeling relaxed.

‘He’s a brilliant safety player. He’s not just playing safe, he’s putting side spin on, he’s coming off two or three cushions, he’s always trying to get you in serious trouble, not just playing safe.

‘He plays a lot of safety shots completely like anyone else, he’s very clever.’

O’Sullivan has predicted similar longevity for himself in the past, saying at last year’s Scottish Open that he can see himself still competing at 55 years old.

‘I can probably do it till I’m about 55, to be honest with you,’ said O’Sullivan after a whitewash win over James Cahill.

‘I feel better now than when I did in my 20s and 30s so, for another 10 years I can’t see a reason why I can’t play like that.

‘Which is nice, I’m not going to be sat at home getting bored, at least I can go out and hit a few balls and enjoy myself. If I feel like I can continue to play like that, I don’t find the game difficult sometimes.’