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 O’Sullivan picks out ‘by far the best performance’ of his snooker career
Phil Haigh – Thursday 16 Apr 2020
Ronnie 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 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.’
The 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.
Steve Davis jokes he’ll break lockdown rules to avoid re-watching 1985 final
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.