Snooker in the press …

Today should have been the eve of the 2020 World Championship, and it should have been the “Press Day” in Sheffield. Instead, we are in lockdown, and there is no certainty whatsoever that we will have a World Championship this year…

All the same, both BBC and Eurosport will show a lot of snooker over the next two weeks, and snooker is a hot topic in the press as well.

Judd Trump is the defending champion, but he’s not at all the main topic in the media. It’s mainly about Ronnie, Steve Davis,

Here is a short selection…

Ronnie picks out his best ever performance (metro)

Ronnie O’Sullivan picks out ‘by far the best performance’ of his snooker career

Phil Haigh – Thursday 16 Apr 2020

Reflective RonnieRonnie O’Sullivan has reflected on his peak as a snooker player (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan says his 2012 World Championship win has been by far the best performance he ever turned in as a professional snooker player.

The Rocket has plenty of highlights to choose from, having won 19 Triple Crown titles and competing with the elite of snooker for the last 25 years.

It is his 2012 Crucible triumph that stands out in his mind, though, when he swept aside the competition, beating Ali Carter 18-11 in the final.

A 13-10 victory over Neil Robertson in the quarter-finals was O’Sullivan’s sternest test that year, with no one else really getting close to him

The 44-year-old rates that World Championship win, one of his five in total, as his finest performance and credits his choice to ease off the practice beforehand, heading to Sheffield fresh and hungry for success. A philosophy he adopted from his love of running.

‘A lot of the time in snooker you feel like you have to put in six hours a day and I was doing that all the time and I’d go to tournaments and not feel excited to play,’ O’Sullivan told INTER SPORT running on Instagram Live.

‘When I started running I thought I had to run every session hard, but the guys at the track said “no, Tuesdays and Thursdays are our hard sessions, we’ll race Saturday or Sunday, the rest of it has got to be easy, and if you really have a big race coming up, the week before, really taper off.”

‘I listened to them and took the advice on board and they were right.

‘I realised that for years and years I was doing the wrong thing in snooker. I was over-playing, by the time I got to the tournament I didn’t really feel that excited to play. The way I approached the running I thought I’d do that for the snooker. It really helped.

Ronnie 2012 ChampionRonnie O’Sullivan dominated the 2012 World Championship as the number 14 seed (Picture: Getty Images)

‘When I played in the 2012 World Championship, I played a lot all season, tournaments and practicing.

‘Maybe about eight or nine days before, I had a practice session and it was so bad, the guy beat me 9-0. I thought “I’ve got to go to the World Championship next week and if I keep playing the way I’m playing I probably won’t be very optimistic about my chances.”

‘I just left my cue under the table, I didn’t come back to it the day before I had to go to Sheffield so I had eight or nine days off.

‘I went to Sheffield and I’d absolutely lost nothing but what I gained was the enthusiasm and the hunger to want to play snooker.

‘All that year of playing and practicing hadn’t gone anywhere, but the 2012 World Championship I couldn’t have played any better. I totally put that down to adopting the philosophy of tapering off.

‘Maybe before I’d have played hard during that week, got to Sheffield and thought “it’s not happening” and mentally not been in the right shape to even get through the first round.

‘Because I’d tapered off, I trusted that I’d put everything in place, 2012 was by far the best performance I put in as a professional snooker player.’

Ronnie 2012 ChampionThe Rocket claimed his fourth world title in 2012, adding his fifth the following year (Picture: Getty Images)

Many see O’Sullivan’s greatest achievement as his defence of the World Championship title 12 months later in 2013.

The Rocket had the entire season off and returned to defend his title in similarly dominant style to how he had won it the year before, making 13 centuries in the tournament.

O’Sullivan was undoubtedly the most potent force in the game at that point, which makes it all the more surprising that 2013 was the last time he lifted the World Championship trophy.

I remember that Championship vividly. Ronnie certainly wasn’t the dominant force that season. He only just avoided having to qualify for the World Championship. He had to win the 2012 German Masters and to make the semi-finals in the 2012 Welsh Open to secure his place in the top 16. Only the year before, he had withdrawn from the 2011 World Championship after a spell of nearly six months without winning a match. He only changed his mind after his then manager persuaded him to start working with Steve Peters.

His health had been poor for most of the season, and his private life was not a happy one.

On the evening before his QF match against Neil Robertson, we had a chat and he told me that he expected a very tough challenge. But he was clearly determined to try his hardest.

Having his son watching him win made this title extra special for Ronnie. 

WDSC_1763

Steve Davis would do anything to avoid to have to watch the “Black Ball Final” once again (sports mole)

Steve Davis jokes he’ll break lockdown rules to avoid re-watching 1985 final

steve-davis-dennis-taylor

© Reuters

Even long days of self-isolation will not stir Steve Davis to sit through another repeat of his defeat to Dennis Taylor as the World Snooker Championships prepare to roll back the years over the next 17 days.

The postponement of this year’s event, which was due to begin in Sheffield on Saturday, has led the BBC to fill the hole in the schedule with a series of classic re-runs, in which six-time champion Davis features prominently.

Beside his 1984 final win over Jimmy White, Davis’ final defeats to Taylor and Joe Johnson will also be revisited, and the series will begin with a repeat of his stunning 10-1 first round loss to Tony Knowles in 1982.

Davis - Taylor

But it is the prospect of once again watching the most famous frame in snooker history that has left Davis, now 62, joking about the drastic measures he may be forced into taking to avoid it.

Davis told the PA news agency: “If they are going to show the 1985 final again I’ll need to see the schedule because I’m going out – and I’ll break any rules to do it.

“I’d rather watch any other defeat of mine. In fact, you can strap me in a chair and I’ll watch ‘Steady’ Eddie Charlton playing 25 frames against Cliff Thorburn until three o’clock in the morning.”

Davis - White

Davis no longer has a snooker table in his house and has resisted the urge to return to the game in any kind of playing capacity since announcing his retirement in 2016.

“Once I stopped playing competitively my desire to play just evaporated,” added Davis. “I still appreciate the skill, but I no longer feel the need to put the balls in the pockets.”

The tournament’s postponement has robbed the sport of the traditional April date it has kept since it was first played at the Crucible in 1977.

Davis retires

For all the multiple-title winners like Davis and Stephen Hendry, it is a history propped up by a colourful cast of characters whose success may have been more fleeting, but their place in the annals of the game is assured.

Knowles now lives in the Lake District and still occasionally frequents the Crucible, while Johnson, who went on to be beaten by Davis in their second final in 1987, is a regular commentator on Eurosport.

Others, like Davis’ former world doubles team-mate Tony Meo, turned their backs on the game and have resisted all entreaties to return. “I haven’t spoken to Tony for years,” admitted Davis.

Matchroom Mob

For every member of Barry Hearn’s ‘Matchroom Mob’, and so-called bad boys like the flamboyant, white-suited Kirk Stevens, there were others whose qualifications as characters remained somewhat more tenuous.

In an era which currently offers the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump, Davis gives short shrift to suggestions that the 1980s somehow represented the halcyon days for recognisable names.

“It’s the same thing as when people say policemen are getting younger these days,” added Davis. “It’s actually the selective memory of people who are getting older.

Screenshot 2020-04-16 at 20.59.30.png

“If you name some ‘characters’ – Terry (Griffiths), Cliff – they weren’t exactly the fastest players on the planet.

“It will be nice to watch all the old stuff but it will remind us that a lot of it wasn’t that good. There was no century break in the 1985 final, and the standard of play these days has gone through the roof.

“I think we’re living in the golden age of snooker now, and we’ve got so many great players to tap into. You’ve got to be even more outrageous if you want to be a character today.”

:: The BBC’s series of classic Crucible matches starts with Davis v Knowles on Saturday April 18 at 1500.

I totally understand Steve Davis. It must be horrible for him. And frankly, it was a terrible final. The drama of the last ball has somehow obliterated the fact that the standard of this match was very low.

From Saturday on Eurosport delivers two-week celebration of snooker

This was announced by Eurosport yesterday:

Eurosport delivers two-week celebration of snooker – and brand new vodcast

By Eurosport

16 hours ago

ESBanner-Ronnie and Trump

This article gives us an idea about the kind of stuff they will cover in these vodcasts 

Ronnie: My favourite rivalry and how my dad helped me on way to greatness

1 hour agoUpdated 9 minutes ago

ESBanner-Ronnie Rivals.jpg

Blast of the past… WPBSA interview with Rex Williams (part 1)

One of the good sides of the current lockdown is that it leaves time for research, for thinking, learning and for remembering.

WPBSA has gone and interviewed former Billiard and Snooker World Champion, Rex Williams, and here is part one of this very interesting conversation.

Rex Williams Interview: Part One

10th April 2020

Williams to Ferguson

 

In this exclusive interview, World Billiards recently caught up with former world and UK Billiards Champion Rex Williams to reflect on his illustrious 50-year career in both billiards and snooker. Rex turned professional in snooker aged just 17 in 1951, but his golden years in the three-ball game, which we focussed on in this interview, began in 1968 when he challenged New Zealander Clark McConachy in a resurrected World Billiards Championship. The championship had had laid dormant for some 17 years and this proved to be his first of seven world titles.

Rex was also heavily involved in the administration of the sport, being the founder chairman of the WPBSA from 1968 to 1987, and again taking charge from 1997 to 1999. For many years he was a regular commentator on BBC and ITV. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 2016.

Now 86 years of age, it has been some years since Rex has played the game, but he stays fit and well by playing golf most days.

Rex was speaking with Chris Coumbe.

Thanks very much for your time today Rex, I am glad to hear you are keeping well. What age were you when you started playing?

“I started playing on a full-sized table when I was 13 years of age. I had a coach; he was a professional – Kingsley Kennerley. He won the English Amateur Billiards Championship 4 times in a row and he was in the final of the snooker four times and won it twice, so he had a good track record.”

Did you start with snooker or billiards, and how long did it take before you made your first century breaks?

“When I first started playing, we didn’t have any snooker balls. My first century break at billiards was 3 months after I started playing. I made a 153 break. My father asked me if I wanted to go in the Midland Boys’ Championship and I said yes. When they sent the entry forms, they sent the snooker as well, and I suggested to my father that we had better get some snooker balls. I won the Midland Boys’ Championship (billiards and snooker) the three years I played in it.

After the war I won the English Boys’ Championship in both snooker and billiards, in 1948 and 1949. My first century at snooker was when I was 15.”

Before winning your first major billiards event, how many hours per week would you practice?

“I used to practice all the hours I could. After I left school I practiced eight hours a day for about 15 years, although when I was at school, the first thing I did when I got back was go onto the billiards table, so I was on it all the time until my mother fetched me off it to go to bed.”

How much emphasis did you put on red ball play before moving into top of the table play in your early days?

“I was very fortunate that my father had a printing business. During the war we moved onto the premises and my father put a billiards table up in the factory for me, it was for my 13th birthday. He then got Kingsley Kennerley to come along and coach me. Before that he got someone from his club to come along who knew the red ball game very well and he taught me the red ball game. By the time I got to Kennerley, I was a good red ball player. I practiced the red ball non-stop. I made a 400 break off the red ball alone when I was about 14 or 15.

He then started teaching me top of the table and I made my first 500 break when I was 16. That was all top of the table. That was in a game against someone in a club I used to play at.

When I was a young boy, I played in local leagues when I was 16 or 17 until I turned pro, in those days almost every club had a player in that club who could make a 100 break at billiards, so there was a lot of good club players about. In the Midlands particularly you had two outstanding amateurs in Frank Edwards and Herbert Beetham, they were a cut above these players. Frank was a very good player, but his cue action didn’t really allow him to pot very well.”

What was it like to play at the famous venues such as Leicester Square Hall and Burroughes Hall?

“Playing at Leicester Square and Burroughes Hall was terrific, the conditions were fantastic, and the atmosphere too in both places. I have very happy memories of both of them because I played there so much. Leicester Square closed down of course in 1955. When I came into the game and played at Leicester Square Hall and Burroughes Hall, the cloths were like silk and they were very heavy, around 38 to 40 ounces, but they were like lightening as the quality was so fantastic. As the quality of cloth deteriorated, we started playing on a lighter cloth. We used to play on 35 ounces for the billiards and 33 ounces for snooker.”

Who was your toughest opponent in billiards and why?

“I would have to say Fred Davis. Fred was a great billiards player and from 1968-1973, I was only beaten once at billiards and that was by Fred. The final time I won it [World Professional title] I beat Fred in the final.”

How did your style of play compare to Fred?

“My floating white was different to Fred’s, I kept them very tight at the top, very close all the time. Fred moved them about a bit more than what I did. If you keep them tight there is less that can go wrong.

Postman’s knock is very easy to master. But there is more that can go wrong at postman’s knock than floating white, and you’ve got to be good at it.”

Although clearly a fierce competitor, it appeared that Fred had a quite a jovial nature around the table. Is that a fair reflection?

“It wouldn’t matter if Fred was playing the final frame in the final of the World Snooker Championship, Fred would still have been like that.

We were all a bit like that in the old days, saying a few words to each other and to the audience and that sort of thing. It doesn’t happen anymore. I put that down to the fact, and I always have done this, that a lot of players who play today will never have played an exhibition in their life, they just play match play. For years I used to do at least 100 exhibitions every year. You had to make it light-hearted, so I think we got into that habit.

In my exhibitions I used to play half an hour of billiards and 5 frames of snooker, followed by trick shots. Joe [Davis] used to play half an hour of billiards, 3 frames of snooker and trick shots.

When I was 16 Joe Davis was coming to a club nearby, and at 16 I was a very good snooker and billiards player. I was asked if I wanted to play Joe and I was delighted and privileged to do that. I broke off at billiards and Joe made 500 unfinished. That was the only shot I had. Joe wasn’t playing much billiards then as this was at the height of his snooker career. This just shows what a great player he was. I played Joe many times at Leicester Square Hall and I played him at Burroughes & Watts as well.”

 

In part 2 next week, Rex tells us more about being crowned world champion, how he mixed top-level billiards and snooker, and his advice for aspiring players.

Forgive me the nostalgic mood … this interview prompted me to listen again to “La Bohême” by Charles Aznavour.

“Je te parles d’un temps que les moins de vingt ans ne peuvent pas connaître” (*) …

Although I’m over three times twenty, I’m young in snooker terms, having only started following the game seriously in 2005. Also, billiard isn’t played much nowadays, certainly not by young people. Contrary to Aznavour though, those walks through the memory lanes don’t fill me with sadness, they fill me with delight and amazement.

I wonder how Rex Williams is feeling about the current state of the game. Does he recognise the landscape of the sports he loves? Does he likes it?

(*) I’m talking to you about a time that those under twenty cannot possibly know

Ronnie’s podcast with Colin Murray

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

And now it is available here

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

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

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

And, finally, happiness is in the simple things.

Enjoy …

And this is Colin’s report on the experience…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ronnie quits UK 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@colinmurray

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

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

Here is the interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0_betway-uk-championship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was published today by Sports Business

Hearn calls for closed-door sports events during coronavirus outbreak

Barry Hearn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two interviews, one with Ali Carter, one with Ronnie

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

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

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

Phil Haigh

Monday 20 Jan 2020 2:51 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Haigh

Sunday 19 Jan 2020 10:57 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the reads.