Ronnie O’Sullivan is set to participate in his 27th straight World Championship as he chases a sixth title that would see him equal the Crucible hauls of Steve Davis and Ray Reardon.
It will be a serious business for O’Sullivan and the rest of snooker’s leading players with the game’s most coveted trophy and a £500,000 first prize on the line in Sheffield when the delayed tournament begins on Friday 31 July.
O’Sullivan has plenty of memories since first appearing at the Crucible as a teenager in 1993, but can also still enjoy the lighter side of the sport as a fan.
The five-times world champion – who is seeded sixth at this year’s event – recalls watching a match between then defending world champion John Parrott and Tony Knowles in 1992 when Parrott benefited from a blunder by legendary referee Len Ganley on his way to a 13-4 win in the last 16.
“One of my favourite moments was a match between John Parrott and Tony Knowles. I remember watching it on the box,” said O’Sullivan.
“John Parrott was in a snooker on the brown. He missed it, and the referee said: ‘foul four, and a miss’. Tony Knowles has said to the referee: ‘Yeah, put the white back’.
“Parrott suddenly gets down to pot the brown, blue, pink and black to clear up. Knowlsey is going mad. He is saying to the referee: ‘He couldn’t see that brown.’
“Poor Knowlsey. He was getting out of his chair, and was fuming. But it was funny to watch.”
It might be perceived as a bit mean to find that incident funny, but, myself, I have witnessed Tony Kowles getting quite worked up about something related to snooker and he got so passionate about it, despite the fact that nobody was disagreeing with him in that particular case, that indeed, it became actually funny.
Regarding the above incident, what puzzles me most is the fact that John Parrott must have known that the white had not been correctly replaced, and said nothing. Unless, of course, Tony’s perception of the situation was wrong from the start. That’s possible because, a player sat in his chair at the Crucible, certainly does not have the best view on the table.
Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he will always regret engaging with boxing trash talk before his World Championship semi-final with Stephen Hendry in 2002.
Ahead of his Crucible clash with seven-times world champion Hendry 18 years ago, O’Sullivan infamously said he would like to send his opponent “back to his sad little life in Scotland”.
It is a moment the Essex player always regrets – he later apologised to Hendry – but believes his close friendship with former world featherweight champion boxer Prince Naseem Hamed did not help before getting inside the ropes with his fellow 36-times ranking winner.
“I wonder – rightly – whether he’s been listening to a certain Sheffield boxer with a penchant for shooting his mouth off,” said Hendry in his autobiography Me and the Table.
“In the last couple of seasons, my pal Prince Naseem has visibly switched his loyalties from me to Ronnie, and the latter has been spotted hanging out with Naz’s entourage. So it’s not surprising there’s a bit of fighting talk.”
The pre-match barbs backfired on O’Sullivan as he lost 17-13 to a fired up Hendry in the semi-finals, who also admitted it is the only grudge match he ever played at the iconic Sheffield venue.
Hendry rolled in breaks of 125, 124, 122, 113, 100, 81, 73, 65, 63, 59, 58, 55 and 53 as he won five of the last six frames to progress to the final, punching the air in completing victory.
“That was terrible. I blamed myself for that,” said O’Sullivan.
“It should never have happened. But I’m also blaming Naz for getting me so revved up. He said to me the day before the match: ‘You should be more like this, or more like that.’
“It was okay for Naz because he was a boxer, but I’m a snooker player. You have to respect your opponent. In boxing, they like that sort of trash talk to sell tickets. It wasn’t really me. I was easily led. When I said it, and when it came out, I was gutted.
It is something I will always regret for the rest of my life. Stephen was my hero, and still is. I never a meant a word of it. I’ve told Stephen that, and apologised to him. I have a lot of time for Stephen, and he accepted my apology. We’re good mates now – we have a solid friendship.
“It was a big mistake on my part.”
It was indeed a very bad idea and it backfired big time. It also led to quite heated – and colourful – discussions between fans of both players on forums and message boards, notably on BBC 606, long after the players themselves had patched things up!
Hendry: O’Sullivan has ‘three or four more world titles in him’
Stephen Hendry is convinced Ronnie O’Sullivan can win “three or four more world titles” if he is determined to become snooker’s greatest Crucible champion.
The seven-times world champion Hendry insists O’Sullivan can still overtake him as the game’s most prolific winner despite celebrating the last of his five world victories in Sheffield seven years ago.
“If he wants to and his head is right, I think he can win another three or four world titles,” said Hendry during an Instagram chat with Alan McManus, who won the 1994 Masters with a 9-8 win over his fellow Scotsman.
McManus believes O’Sullivan, 44, has underachieved in his 28-year professional career despite drawing level with Hendry on 36 ranking event victories and becoming the first player to compile over 1000 career centuries.
“Probably (has underachieved). How many goes has he had at Sheffield? 27 goes or something. He’s won it five times which is good,” commented McManus.
“He looked like he was never being bothered properly until the early 2000s or something,” said Hendry.
He’ll always be a genius, but there seemed to be a time when he was suddenlythere to win.
McManus is slightly baffled by O’Sullivan’s recent comments regarding the length of the World Championship being too long for him and feels the Essex player should trust in the advice of sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters.
“With me, I’m such an emotional player and person, to try and hold it down for 17 days, I’m beaten before I go there sometimes, it’s just not a great tournament for me. It’s like asking Usain Bolt to run the marathon. It’s just not suited to his genes or personality,” said O’Sullivan.
McManus is adamant the duration of the event should not be an issue.
“I think we can safely say, can he win another world title? The answer is yes, of course he can,” said McManus.
“I don’t know about this 17-day thing he talks about. The first week you are only playing one match. I think he needs to get tuned in properly.
That guy Steve Peters seems to help him whatever he does. I would get him in tow and just get on with it.
Hendry says O’Sullivan cannot be blamed for not enjoying the challenge of the World Championship.
“Ronnie admits that he isn’t really interested in being there for 17 days. You can’t argue with that. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel,” said Hendry.
McManus feels a dream final would be an O’Sullivan showdown with undisputed world number one and world champion Judd Trump if the postponed tournament goes ahead behind closed doors at the end of July.
“He’s capable of doing it. Whether he can be bothered putting the work in to be able to do it, I don’t know it,” said McManus.
“It would be good if he gets to play Judd in the final. It would actually be interesting to see Ronnie being the underdog.
Robertson: O’Sullivan can still equal Hendry’s world record haul
By Desmond Kane
Ronnie O’Sullivan can still reach Stephen Hendry’s record Crucible haul of seven if he wants it badly enough, according to 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.
Australia’s greatest player believes O’Sullivan – world champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 – has the ability to add to his total of five victories despite last winning snooker’s ultimate event seven years ago with an 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins.
Hendry’s Crucible record is arguably the last major one O’Sullivan has yet to topple having lifted seven Masters and seven UK titles, compiling over 1,000 centuries and joining Hendry on 36 career ranking event wins.
O’Sullivan last reached the world final when he lost 18-14 to Mark Selby in 2014, but has suffered several surprising defeats in recent times including a 10-8 defeat to amateur qualifier James Cahill in the first round a year ago, one of the biggest shocks of all time.
He has twice lost in the quarter-finals over the past five years being unseated by Stuart Bingham in 2015 – a year where he removed his shoes during a first-round win over Craig Steadman – and Ding Junhui in 2017.
There was also the infamous incident with Ali Carter in a second-round defeat in 2018 where both players bumped into each other at the table.
“Yeah for sure Ronnie could win seven. It all depends on his head,” Robertson told Eurosport. “Last year was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.
“Ever since he lost to Selby in the final, every year since has been really strange. He lost to Barry Hawkins (second round in 2016) which was an unbelievable match.
A lot is expected of him. Not so much from the crowd. He just seems to attract a lot more attention from people away from the table. Nothing bad or anything, it’s just he is the superstar of the game so he has to deal with a lot of that.
“He was quite open and honest about how he has approached this season. He has been quite attacking and playing to enjoy it rather than not really enjoying it at all.”
O’Sullivan has vowed to commit to a full schedule over the next two years. “I do think for the next two years I might just focus and play in every event I can possibly play in,” he said on Instagram. “Give it one last shot and see if I can get my game to a level where I’m confident of winning.”
O’Sullivan’s five-year Crucible record
2019 Lost 10-8 James Cahill (first round)
2018 Lost 13-9 Ali Carter (second round)
2017 Lost 13-10 Ding Junhui (quarter-finals)
2016 Lost 13-12 Barry Hawkins (second round)
2015 Lost 13-9 Stuart Bingham (quarter-finals)
History suggests O’Sullivan will struggle to land even one more world title at the age of 44 at an event he admits he dislikes due to the elongated and exhaustive nature of it over 17 days in Sheffield. Six-times world champion Ray Reardon remains the oldest winner of the Crucible era aged 45 and 203 days in 1978.
This year’s rescheduled event is due to begin on July 31 and is likely to be played to behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic if it goes ahead. O’Sullivan is ranked 18 on the game’s one-year list. His last ranking event victory came in March 2019 when he beat Robertson 13-11 in the Tour Championship final in Llandudno.
Robertson feels O’Sullivan’s desire is the key to any future success.
“He has still played to a decent standard, but not really to the levels he reached over the previous two seasons when he won around 80 percent of all the tournaments he played in,” said Robertson.
“Which was an insane record. It all depends on what his mindset is, and what he wants out it. He has said he plans to give it a real good go.
“For the game, it would obviously be brilliant if he wants to compete again at most of the events. That would be fantastic even though it would lessen mine and everybody else’s chances of winning events including Ronnie’s too.
“It will be a fantastic challenge to see Ronnie playing more that we should all welcome.”
Well … personally, I would love to see Ronnie win ONE more. I would be delighted if he gets to six. Of course seven would be fantastic, but just one more would make me perfectly happy. Can he do it? I’m not sure. Does he still have the game? Definitely in my opinion. Does he have the desire? Probably. The real issue – in my view – is neither desire nor ability, it’s a combination of stress related to the expectations everyone puts on him, anxiety caused his own perception of the very high standard he is expected to deliver and the scars left by the 2014 defeat to Mark Selby. The latter are not to be underestimated. That defeat did hurt, very badly, and not just the defeat but the manner of it. Ronnie and Mark go along well nowadays, and there is huge respect between them, but the scars remain.
In my opinion, Ronnie’s best chance to win another World title would be to head to the Championship as an underdog, just like in 2012 and in 2013. In 2012 he had only just avoided to have to qualify after two terrible seasons, in 2013 he came as the World Champion but having just played one low key match all season, a match he had lost. If the focus and expectations are on other players, then he has a good chance to avoid the early rounds “banana skin” (*). Once we get to the one table set-up, the whole atmosphere of the Championship changes. It’s no more a cramped venue made even more claustrophobic by the curtain in the middle. It’s a proper arena. It’s still a bear pit, but that doesn’t matter: so was Goffs in Ireland, and it was one of Ronnie’s favourite venues.
(*) I know that many fans think that Ronnie must be a confident player, considering how much he has won so far in his career. Nothing is further from the truth. He’s an anxious person. He’s been open about his depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. He’s learned to cope with that better than in the past, but it’s not gone, it never will, it’s part of the person he is. When he can get in the zone – only him and the table in a bubble – he’s incredibly strong under pressure, but when he can’t … he’s vulnerable.
Another World Championship related question was also debated between Stephen and Alan: what would happen if Judd Trump was to face Steve Davis in his prime?
Generation game: Could Davis at his best topple Trump?
Stephen Hendry and Alan McManus agree that Steve Davis in his prime would have caused real problems for world champion and world number one Judd Trump with his superior tactical game.
Seven-times world champion Hendry believes Trump in top gear would win a world final “18-7 or 18-8” if the pair met at the peak of their powers, but added that his old rival’s “granite” safety game would give him a chance.
Three-times World Championship semi-finalist McManus points out that it would not be a foregone conclusion because of six-times world champion Davis’ ability to starve his opponents of chances.
“It’s tough. When you discuss different eras, you have to remember this: the day that Davis won his world titles, all the days between now and then hadn’t happened yet,” said 1994 Masters winner McManus on Instagram
“He didn’t know about Judd. He was playing the guy in the other chair.
“You’ve got to take that into account. I only played ‘The Nugget’ in the nineties, and I thought he was an unbelievable player.”
Trump produced the greatest performance in a world final with an 18-9 win over John Higgins in the 2019 final, a match that saw him make seven century breaks.
While Hendry feels Trump will carry snooker to a new level, he agreed with McManus that Davis – Crucible winner in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989 – was a fearsome competitor in his pomp.
“There was time when you wondered: ‘How could you beat him?’,” said Hendry.
“I think Judd is possibly going to take the game to a new level. Judd would probably beat him, but I’d be interested to see.
“Judd would probably beat him 18-7 or 18-8. Something like that.”
McManus recalled the UK Championship final in 1990 when Hendry edged Davis 16-15 in one of the sport’s all-time classic clashes at Preston’s Guild Hall.
“The famous UK final between you and him in 1990. I know how well you were playing. He was playing good, wasn’t he?,” said McManus.
“The other thing you have to say is that Judd would need to play well to win otherwise ‘The Nugget’ would get him.
“Davis was an unbelievable player. I played him in my first final (Asian Open in 1992) in Bangkok. I never missed a shot, I played awesome, one of the best matches I’ve ever played.
“He beat me 9-3 and I was over the moon with myself.”
This, in my opinion, is an impossible question to answer. For a start, the conditions were quite different, notably because of the heavier cloth. This made some shots easier to master (I’m thinking massés f.i.) whilst others were much more difficult (splitting the pack wide open f.i.). I think that Judd would struggle with those conditions, despite his tremendous cue power. He developed as a player on much faster tables and he plays a lot of shots that have balls traveling the full length of the table. It’s one of his strength and those shots might prove more difficult to get right on a slower table. Conversely, Steve Davis started playing on those slower tables and he may struggle for accuracy on the ultra-fast ones. Why am I writing this? Because players develop and hone their game in a certain context: the conditions available to them in their time. I’m not sure that Judd would play the type of game he plays now if he was born 30 years earlier, and Steve Davis might have become a different player too if he had been exposed to nowadays conditions in his prime. They are both supremely talented, and very fierce competitors, and that’s who they are, no matter when they were born, but how they developed as players would probably be different. I believe that, each playing at their prime level, Steve would beat Judd on the 80th conditions, whilst Judd would beat Steve playing on nowadays tables. But it’s a completely academic question.
At the time of writing I haven’t listened to the chat yet… probably more on that tomorrow then.
Yesterday evening should have seen the conclusion of the second round at the World Championship …
Eurosport has published this vodcast about the “Greatest Rivalries”
To be honest, I found this one a bit disappointing, but the issue is probably with me rather than with the vodcast. I’m not overly interested in “rivalries” and the concept of “rivalry” itself is not entirely clear to me.
I’m certain that Alex Higgins saw anyone who beat him regularly, and possibly threatened his “status” as “People Champion and the most important player on the tour, as a rival or even as an enemy. His attitude towards the like of Steve Davis, Cliff Thorburn, and Dennis Taylor suggests that much. At times he really hated them. I’m very doubtful that those “rivals” feelings were reciprocal, nor that they were so extreme. They probably had very mixed feelings: irritation most of the time, anger as well, but surely they were also disconcerted and puzzled as it was plain for all to see that he wasn’t stable mentally and battling addictions.
Some of those “rivalries” were the expression of a “change of guard”: Davis v Hendry, Hendry v Ronnie, Ronnie v Trump and to an extend Selby are examples.
Other rivalries, like Ronnie v John Higgins, John Higgins v Mark Williams, Mark Williams v Ronnie, are the true rivalries in my eyes: sportsmen of the same generation, competing against each other throughout their career. Same era, same opportunities, same conditions.
And then, you have those rivalries that are more of a fans’ thing than anything else. As much as I like Jimmy White for his unwavering love of the game, I can’t see him as a rival to either Hendry or Steve Davis in terms of career and achievements, and, surely, both Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry must have been aware of this even in their prime. Jimmy had the flair, the charisma, and the charm … but his lifestyle, personality, and iffy work ethic meant that he was never going to challenge them in terms of career achievements.
To an extend, this also goes for the Hendry v Ronnie rivalry from 2004 on. Hendry was no more the force he had been, but hope never died in his fans.
WST Crucible Gold was about Ronnie and shows his last three Crucible Finals wins
This of course triggered very fond memories for me, as I was there in 2012 and 2013.
It also awoke bittersweet ones. I was thrilled to watch him win in 2008. I was in a snooker club, because I couldn’t watch BBC at home. The club doesn’t exist anymore, it’s a supermarket now, the owner has lefts us, taken away by cancer, and I remember the mixed feelings seeing Ronnie there with his partner and two young children. At the time, I knew that their relationship was on the rocks,
In their daily vodcast, Andy Goldstein, Neal Foulds, and Jimmy White explore “bizarre” snooker moments.
With hindsight, it’s true that the whole 2020 Masters was a story of the unexpected, and, of course, Ronnie’s concession at the UK Championship in 2006 left everyone puzzled, and many worried. Signs that things weren’t right had been there in the previous months though.
But, there were a number of other strange moments, not included in their vodcast, and here are a few.
Dechawat Poomjaeng at the 2013 World Championship certainly should have been included …
It was both funny and disturbing. One of the funniest moments I was lucky to witness at the Crucible came in the media room after Stephen Maguire first-round defeat to Poomjaeng that year. Maguire came to the media room, obviously gutted and more than just slightly nonplussed. He literally let himself fall on the chair, sat there slumped for a few seconds, then declared “I have never seen anything like that”. Then leaned over the desk, half-covered his mouth with his hand, and with the look of a man about to disclose a dangerous secret, he whispered “Between us … he’s not the full shilling”. Now considering that there were about 5 mikes and 15 recorders on that desk, not even mentioning that the whole interview was filmed, that was quite surrealistically comical.
This incident at the Crucible in 2009 was quite strange as well and triggered endless discussions amongst fans
It’s obvious that, had Dotty not put his fist in the pocket, the white would have gone in-off. However, the white, in this case, was still on the bed of the table when Graeme touched it. Therefore, Alan Chamberlain calls a foul, as expected, but not because of the in-off, because Graeme has interfered with a ball in play. Also because there wasn’t an in-off, Alan leaves the white where it stopped, instead of cleaning it and putting it on the cushion. Mark Selby though doesn’t understand this. In his view, the white was going in-off and therefore, he believes that he has ball in hand and picks it. Alan Chamberlain immediately calls a foul … as it’s now Mark Selby who has been interfering with a ball in play. Eventually, Dott very sportingly refuses to take advantage. Strictly sticking by the rules Alan Chamberlain was right. But, under those circumstances, his call was a bit unfair on Mark Selby. I don’t think any player, except maybe Dominic Dale, or someone who is a referee as well as a player would have reacted differently than Mark did.
This one wasn’t bad either … Graeme Dott gets static shocks when touching the table at the Crucible in 2013 and asks for the carpet to be watered
Luca Brecel coming to his first-round match at the 2018 Masters, carrying two cues, was strange too, especially as, at no point, did it became clear what his intentions were. Having several cues is not unusual in pool, but the purpose is generally obvious: one cue to break, one to play, and, in some cases, another one to play jump shots. But in snooker? I can’t remember another occurrence of a player turning up with several cues.
“Crucible Gold” was looking at Stephen Hendry’s Crucible wins in 1990, 1992, 1994.
All three of those were wins over Jimmy White. In 1992, Hendry won 10 frames on the spin to win the match 18-14 from 14-8 down, in 1994, Jimmy twitched on a simple black off the spot, with the table at his mercy. Stephen was sitting in his chair, looking resigned, and admitted afterward that he didn’t expect to get another chance. Many fans are convinced that Jimmy White would surely have been a World Champion, if it wasn’t for Hendry. I love Jimmy, but I’m really not sure. He definitely should have won at least one of those two. Jimmy lost those two matches as much if not more than Stephen won them.
And finally, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie are going to do another Instagram chat on April 30, 2020. It should be interesting!
In a wide-ranging discussion about his life off the table during a storied career, Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport he will retire at the age of 50.
In a frank and honest discussion, O’Sullivan spoke about how his life spiralled in the 1990s following his incredible ascent to fame as a teenager, and the imprisonment of his father, before a spell in rehab proved a turning point in his career. The five-time world champion also talked about the roles played by his mentors Ray Reardon and Steve Peters in cementing him as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
O’Sullivan went on to examine why a reduced schedule didn’t work for him in 2019-20 and how he will change next season by not practicing and instead “play every tournament”. He also revealed why he will retire in five years time…
We have selected some of the best extracts below, but you can listen to the podcast for the full episode.
RONNIE ON HIS PRIVATE LIFE IN THE 1990s
I was just partying a bit too much and like I said when I won that tournament (in 1993) I thought I’d made it. I’d come into a bit of money, I had a nice house, a nice car, I was single. So, I could do what I want when I liked really. I just probably chose the wrong company but it just got hold of me really. I took my eye off the ball. I wasn’t really focused on snooker and I wasted probably five years of my career just messing about really.
THE ‘LIGHTBULB MOMENT’ WHEN HE KNEW IT HAD TO CHANGE
I think after I lost to Stephen Hendry in 1996, and I was quite overweight as well. I was eating and drinking quite a lot. I was looking at a picture of myself and it dawned on me, and I thought, ‘I need to get myself fit again’. So, I spent three months, I lost my driving licence, so I spent three months just going to the gym two or three times a day, eating really well and got myself in good shape for the next season. And then I managed to win four of five tournaments actually, which was great. But then I went back to drinking and partying again. So for the next two years I wasn’t as bad as I was before but I was still doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. So, that’s why I decided that I had to go to The Priory. Basically, first thing in the morning I was getting up, having a drink, having a joint just to function through the day. Which never felt good because I thought ‘I don’t want to have to rely on this sort of stuff’ but it just a hold of me a bit too much and that’s when I decided to get help for it.
ON GOING TO THE PRIORY
I just rang up the drugs helpline and said, ‘I’ve got some problems and I need to get some help, I think I know what it is, and I’d like some help.’ She said fine, so she came round the house and spoke to me and within two hours of meeting her she had me in The Priory in Roehampton. That was probably the best thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t want to go, I was scared. I thought ‘I’m not an addict, I’m not an alcoholic, I’ve just got to learn to just control it a bit’. And when I went in there and they said it was complete abstinence it was like ‘What? There’s no way I’ll be able to do that.’ But, I managed to get clean and sober. I haven’t stayed clean and sober the whole time but I don’t go out and have one or two drinks, I have a glass every six months if it’s a birthday party or New Year’s Eve thing. Otherwise I’m teetotal really.
HOW HIS CAREER WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT WITH HIS DAD AROUND
I think it would have been a lot different. I think I would have won the World Championships a lot earlier. I think I would have won plenty more tournaments. Absolutely 100% it would have been different but it was what it was and it was just unfortunate. It was unfortunate for me and unfortunate for him and things could have been so much better really. I certainly would have enjoyed my career a lot more having him around than not having him around.
RONNIE ON HOW RAY REARDON CHANGED HIS GAME
My dad made the phone call to somebody. I don’t know who he called. But he said, ‘Ronnie could do with a little bit of someone with a bit of experience in his corner. Who would you recommend?’ They mentioned a few names then said the one you really want to get hold of would be Ray Reardon. So we said, ‘Can you get his number for me?’ and he said ‘yeah, no problem.’ So we got Ray’s number and my dad phoned him up and he had a chat to him and said, ‘Would you want to help my son?’ And he went ‘Yeah, love to! No problem.’ So he got off the phone to Ray Reardon and phoned me up and ‘here, I’ve got Ray Reardon’s number, he’s waiting for you to call him.’ This was halfway through a match, I was playing Andy Hicks at the time, and I think I was 9-7 down in the final session. I had a phone call from Ray and I said ‘Ray, I’m playing well but I’m 9-7 down.’ He went, ‘he’s not scared of you, that’s why.’ I was like ‘really?’ And he said, ‘No, he’s not scared of you, no, no, no. Just keep him tight, keep tight, don’t go for them ones where you leave them easy.’ So I thought ‘alright’ and I tightened up a little bit and I won the match quite easily, about 13-10 or 13-11. But it felt different, it felt a different way of playing. I felt in control. I got more mistakes out of my opponents. So, that was my first lesson with Ray, over the phone. Then, the next day he was in Sheffield so we really got to work on the table. And then from that moment onwards I was a different player, a completely different player, and all for the better as well.
RONNIE ON STEVE PETERS
Again, that was through one of my managers at the time. He knew me better than anyone at the time and he knew that I was having these stage frights if you like. I was OK practicing but as soon as a tournament came up I was so overly anxious that I would end up worrying myself so much that I wouldn’t be able to pot a ball when I get there, and I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy it. And he read this article about this guy that Steve Peters was working with and thought that it sounds just like Ronnie and Ronnie could do with some help form this guy. So I got in touch with Steve Peters and he agreed to meet me, we went up to his house. I think I spent about an hour with him for the first session and after about 10 or 15 minutes I thought ‘this geezer’s different’ and he grabbed my attention. I thought ‘I want to see what this guy’s got to offer.’ So, I did what he said for a year or two years. I really studied hard on the model, tried to get my emotions under check which I did and I had become a different player. So in the same way that Ray changed me, Steve changed me in my mental approach. So by then, I probably felt I’d got to…I’d covered all my weaknesses if you like.
RONNIE ON REDUCING HIS SCHEDULE
I think it backfired on me this year because in previous years when I did play I either won the event or at least got to the finals. So, I was getting a lot of ranking points and that was keeping me up the rankings – I got to number one towards the end of last year, that’s with playing half the tournaments some of the other players were playing. But, you need to win tournaments to do that and this year I haven’t. I’ve made finals, played two semis, made two quarters, two last-16s. So, it hasn’t been a bad season but I haven’t played enough and obviously I’ve struggled – I think I was about 18 on the one-year list. So, next year I think I won’t practice and I’ll just play probably every tournament and use that as my practice. So, when I come home I don’t play, spend time at home and do some of my other bits and pieces that I enjoy to do, like a bit of property and stuff, because I don’t want to be a slave to the game. But then I think if I’m going to play 90 or 100 days a year, I might as well play 70 or 80 matches and just use the matches as my practice. And if you lose great you have a few days at home and just try out doing it differently and seeing what I get because last year was a disaster. And I was missing so many tournaments that when I did some back to play I felt like I was well off the pace and that isn’t a nice feeling either.
RONNIE ON RETIREMENT
I think I’ll give it one good crack maybe next year or the year after I might play some more and then by the time I’m 50 call it a day. At some point, I can’t go on forever. It would look stupid keeping playing and playing. I love doing the exhibitions and stuff like that but if I can get another four or five years out of my snooker career that’s great. Obviously I’d like to do the exhibitions but then look to do stuff away from snooker.
I can only recommend that you listen to the full podcast, instead of just reading the article, because there is a bit more to it than what’s written. It’s a very positive interview and Andy remarked that Ronnie seems to be in a good place mentally, whilst a lot of people struggle with the lockdown. Andy knows Ronnie very well; as children, they were going to the same school and became friends. Andy is a decent amateur snooker player himself. In a way, he’s the ideal interviewer for Ronnie, who trusts him, knowing that he won’t distort what he’s telling him in order to create “stories” that sell.
Here is part of the vodcast …
Ronnie will turn 45 in December, so that’s him planning to play for another five years. A lot can happen in five years…
Yesterday’s Crucible Gold was about Steve Davis.
Steve’s emotion after winning in 1981 remains endearing and infectious even after nearly forty years. The 1984 final finish is still tense and enthralling, as well. People who never saw Davis play as a young man may think that he was mainly a defensive player, but he actually was very positive in his shot selection, without being reckless. And when in 2011, he defeated John Higgins, the defending Champion, in the last 16, Steve was slower, but he was still going for his shots. I think the finish of that match, should have been included in this “Crucible Gold”.
Eurosport continues with their “vodcast” series, and this article is a teaser to the one likely to be shown today, which means that the complete interview will probably be on their youtube channel tomorrow.
This one is about Ronnie’s struggles mainly
O’Sullivan: Rehab was the moment my career truly started
Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport that going into the Priory for drug and alcohol treatment in 2000 was the “best thing” he has ever done, and that it was the moment his career truly started.
In a candid new episode of Eurosport’s new snooker vodcast, O’Sullivan discusses his life away from the table in depth with Andy Goldstein, covering the highs and lows of one of the great sporting careers.
From his sensational victory as a 17-year-old at the UK Championship in 1993, O’Sullivan has been a talent who has commanded intense attention. In an open discussion, the five-time world champion discusses how he could have won even more titles had his father not been imprisoned just weeks after that seminal victory over Stephen Hendry.
In 1998, he was also stripped of an Irish Masters title and forced to return his prize money after testing positive for cannabis following his win over Ken Doherty in the final.
O’Sullivan also discusses the “lightbulb moment” when he realised he needed to change his lifestyle, resulting in a rehab stint at the Priory – a decision which proved to be a major turning point on his road to sporting greatness. So much so that O’Sullivan considers it to be the moment his career truly started.
Addressing his private life in the 1990s, O’Sullivan tells Goldstein: “I was just partying a bit too much and like I said when I won that tournament (in 1993) I thought I’d made it. I’d come into a bit of money, I had a nice house, a nice car, I was single. So, I could do what I want when I liked really. I just probably chose the wrong company but it just got hold of me really. I took my eye off the ball. I wasn’t really focussed on snooker and I wasted probably five years of my career just messing about really.
“I think [the ‘lightbulb moment’ was] after I lost to Stephen Hendry in 1996, and I was quite overweight as well. I was eating and drinking quite a lot. I was looking at a picture of myself and it dawned on me, and I thought, ‘I need to get myself fit again’. So, I spent three months, I lost my driving licence, so I spent three months just going to the gym two or three times a day, eating really well and got myself in good shape for the next season. And then I managed to win four of five tournaments actually, which was great. But then I went back to drinking and partying again.
“So for the next two years I wasn’t as bad as I was before but I was still doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. So, that’s why I decided that I had to go to The Priory. Basically, first thing in the morning I was getting up, having a drink, having a joint just to function through the day. Which never felt good because I thought ‘I don’t want to have to rely on this sort of stuff’ but it just a hold of me a bit too much and that’s when I decided to get help for it.
“I just rang up the drugs helpline and said, ‘I’ve got some problems and I need to get some help, I think I know what it is, and I’d like some help.’ She said fine, so she came round the house and spoke to me and within two hours of meeting her she had me in The Priory in Roehampton. That was probably the best thing I’ve ever done.
“I didn’t want to go, I was scared. I thought ‘I’m not an addict, I’m not an alcoholic, I’ve just got to learn to just control it a bit’. And when I went in there and they said it was complete abstinence it was like ‘What? There’s no way I’ll be able to do that.’ But, I managed to get clean and sober.
“I haven’t stayed clean and sober the whole time but I don’t go out and have one or two drinks, I have a glass every six months if it’s a birthday party or New Year’s Eve thing. Otherwise I’m teetotal really.”
O’Sullivan was asked by Goldstein if he looks back at that time and sees a ‘different person’, and said he has effectively wiped six years of his career as a result of his personal issues.
“I wouldn’t look at anything from 1994 up until where I came out The Priory. I just wouldn’t want to look at it because it’s such bad memories for me.
“Anything from coming out The Priory onwards I class as my career that was a proper career really where I was giving it 100%. I wasn’t always mentally in great shape because I struggled with performing badly. But I was still putting the work in, putting the practice in because if my game was alright I was one of the favourites to win any tournament.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump react to possibility of World Championship behind closed doors
Phil HaighFriday 24 Apr 2020
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump are both of the opinion that a World Championship without a crowd is better than no World Championship, but the event would certainly lose something with no fans in attendance at the Crucible.
The World Championship is set to run from 31 July-16 August, although there is nothing guaranteed on whether there will be a crowd in attendance at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
There remains the possibility that the event could be held behind closed doors, with a reduced crowd, and an outside chance that a full house of around 1,000 would be allowed in South Yorkshire.
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan and reigning world champ Trump would obviously rather have fans in the room, but know that needs must during the coronavirus crisis.
Talking on Instagram with Stephen Hendry, O’Sullivan said: ‘I think as long as it’s safe…
[What if it’s 17-17 in the final frame?] ‘It would be mental wouldn’t it. That’s a terrible thought.
‘I watched the Gibraltar Open, the final when there was no one in the crowd and it was quite bizarre to watch it ‘
I suppose from a TV point of view, a lot of people sitting around just wanting to watch some live sport.
‘From that point of view, any type of World Championships would be better than no World Championships, really.’
Judd Trump won his first World Championship last year and will have been dearly looking forward to returning to the Crucible and being introduced to a packed crowd as the reigning champion.
It will be a disappointment for the world number one if the crowd can’t be there, but like O’Sullivan, he accepts that players need to get back to the table ASAP.
‘Obviously, I’d love to defend my title in front of a full crowd. And it’d be a bit disheartening having that taken away from me,’ Judd told the Sun.
‘But you’ve to look at the bigger picture here. As snooker players, we need to keep playing.
‘Maybe if there aren’t other sports going on, then snooker can become a global sport. People who maybe didn’t watch the sport before might tune in.
‘With football, you need 60-70 people to play a game. In snooker, maybe you need only four or five people.
‘The best-case scenario is a full crowd. But I cannot see things getting back to normal that fast.’
WST are very confident that the event will go ahead on 31 July although there remains the possibility that government guidelines could prevent this entirely.
More likely it will just be a question of crowd restrictions, which WST are flexible to and will make a decision on closer to the time, depending on how government advice changes.
Personally, I still doubt that holding the tournament end of July will be possible. I can’t see the qualifiers, involving a possible 128 players, being deemed safe as early as mid-July.
Yesterday’s “Crucible Gold” was about the 1985 Black Ball final. I have to say, I’m getting sick and tired of the constant rehashing about that final and how it finished.
The BBC, on the other hand, showed a really good and interesting “Crucible Classic”: the 1988 match between a 19 years old Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White. This was a high-quality match. Young Stephen lacked experience but his quality is there for all to see. As for Jimmy, watching this match, you really wonder how he has never won the World Championship, although, in a way, the answer is there for all to see as well. Unable or unwilling to curb his attacking instinct, ever in the crucial moments, and a certain vulnerability under pressure, although, there was no sign of the latter in this particular match deciding frame.
Today they are showing the 1992 final… same players, different story.
Of course, it can only go ahead if restrictions are lifted – at least partially – and if it’s safe. The main issue, in my view, remains the qualifiers, that need to happen earlier and involve a lot more players and officials.
Also, if travel restrictions are not lifted globally, players based outside the UK may find it difficult or even impossible to attend. That’s a serious issue because the World Championship qualifiers are essential for so many players when it comes to their tour survival and it would be completely unfair if they were unable to compete, by no fault of theirs, and lost their tour card as a result.
Interestingly, the Championship is due to start on a Friday and end on a Sunday. That is a very welcome change for a lot of fans around the world. WST stands for “World Snooker Tour”, and having the climax of the final of the biggest event of the season played on a Monday, meaning on a normal working day for everyone except the UK fans was just another example of the persistent UK centric view of the governing body of the sport. I hope this particular change in the schedule is there to stay and not just a “one-off” thing.
Eurosport delivered two interesting vodcasts.
Andy Goldstein spoke to Neil Robertson, about his career, video games addiction, and supporting a partner suffering mental health illness. Neil is truly a great, positive person and this chat is really worth listening to.
He also spoke to Ronnie about his best wins, lockdown life, 146s, and that streaker.
At the time of writing, the vodcast isn’t available on youtube yet, but here is the audio:
And here are some of the key points (source Eurosport)
Ronnie O’Sullivan on his best wins, lockdown life and that streaker
Ronnie O’Sullivan | Snooker | ESP Player Feature Image credit: Getty Images
Ronnie O’Sullivan joins us for the latest episode of the Snooker Vodcast to discuss, amongst other things, the matches that shaped his career.
O’SULLIVAN ON LOCKDOWN
It’s actually been alright really – it’s a bit tough for us at the moment because we haven’t actually got a kitchen so we’re just making do with what we can; we’ve got our doors getting delivered in five days and then hopefully our floors will be delivered in another three weeks, and then our kitchen another four/five weeks after that. So, it’s not ideal but it’s alright.
ON WINNING THE UK CHAMPIONSHIP AT 17
In some ways I wasn’t surprised [by winning it that young]
When I first turned pro I didn’t really know how good the top pros were. You only watch it on TV and sometimes you only get the highlights, and they only show you the best bits. I think my first real insight into playing someone like Stephen Hendry was the tournament before the UK Championship and that was in Dubai – and he beat me 6-2.
And basically the reason why I didn’t win or just get a bit closer was because I showed him too much respect. But he gave me chances, and I just didn’t take them. I think when I went into the next match I had a bit more belief that if I got those chances, there should be no reason why I couldn’t compete with him. Obviously, the pressure was all on Stephen and no one knew me at the time, so that also helped.
ON THE FEARLESSNESS OF YOUTH
It’s so much harder when you’re playing someone that’s younger than you because Stephen was the one to be shot at. So from that moment onwards [the UK Championship win], me, [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins were trying to just keeping coming at him and every time he beat us it only made us stronger, but every time we would beat him it would make him a bit weaker, you know? Like for me, now if I was to play someone like Higgins, it probably wouldn’t put as much of a dent in him [if I beat him], but for him to get beaten by a younger player, it would really like maybe put more of a dent in him. So, it was harder for Hendry than it was for me in many ways.
ON HIS FIRST MASTERS TITLE
I remember that I was lucky to get through the first round. I was playing John Parrott who was a bit of bogeyman for me, as the first seven times I’d played him he’d beaten me. So, every time I had to play him I just thought, he was the one guy I could never get near. He had a straight blue in the middle to beat me 5-4, but he missed it and I cleared up and then went on to win the tournament. And to play John Higgins, who is probably my biggest rival out of all of them, was fantastic.
WHY IT TOOK ‘SO LONG’ TO CLAIM WORLD TITLE AND THE RELIEF
Because I just started partying really. So, when the tournament season started, I kind of thought, it started in September and finished in May, so I had to kind of curb my drinking, my partying from September to May.
If I had a bad session I felt the sooner this is over, the sooner I can have some fun with my friends.
When it came off, it was the most unbelievable feeling. If you win it once, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win it again because you’ve got your name on the trophy. The monkey off your back is huge, it allows you to go and play and then it’s just a case of clocking up as many titles as you can get. I’m sure Judd [Trump] will go and win it a few more times [now he has won it once].
ON WINNING HIS FIFTH WORLD TITLE AFTER TAKING A YEAR OUT
never thought I’d win it [after the sabbatical], because I’d never won the World Championship back to back. However, when I got on the practice table I felt great immediately. But practise and matches are totally different and I had no match practise and you can only get that by playing matches. But I did feel that after each match [at the Crucible], parts of my game got stronger. And by the final I kind of hit my true, the highest point, you know, I was playing at a very, very high level. Come the final, I just went out there and played as aggressively as I could.
I think my three best victories were the 2012 World Champs, 2013 World Champs and I enjoyed the 2014 Masters when I beat Mark Selby in the final – to beat Selby as convincingly as I did shows that I must have been playing some really good stuff.
ON THAT FASTEST-EVER 147
I was a lot faster then, a lot younger, and played much more on instinct. I still play on instinct but that was youth and enthusiasm and all that sort of stuff. I probably know I wouldn’t be able to do that now because I’m a different player. It’s still one of the fantastic moments in snooker I suppose.
ON THE 146 AGAINST BARRY PINCHES
I was always going to get a 146 [against Barry Pinches]. Yeah, there was no way I was going to get a 147. No chance. I didn’t even need to go round the table [to complete the 147], I’d have just screwed it in with a little bit of side and been on the black. I think I’ve had three 146s now, which could have been maxes.
ON THE 140 AGAINST MARK KING AT THE 2010 WORLD OPEN
I knew it wasn’t a big prize [for a 147], but then I also knew that if I was to say there should be a bigger prize for a 147, you get people going, ‘Oh, you know, you’re ungrateful, you’re this, you’re that.’ So, I just thought, ‘What’s the best way to illuminate it? I thought, just go for the 147 and ask the ref what the prize is. Once he tells me it’s that, I go, ‘Oh, alright, I’ve made a 140, that’ll do’. It just makes it much more of an interesting talking point.
ON HIS 1000TH TON AND THE CROWD REACTION
It was a great moment; especially to do it at the Guild Hall where I won my first UK Championship. To win the title and then make the century in the last frame, against Neil Robertson, who’s a fantastic player, for me it was the perfect place to do it. Yeah, I was buzzing, the crowd were excited, and once they [started clapping] I didn’t know whether to carry on playing or let them carry on clapping so I kept potting the balls. It was a good moment.
THE STREAKER IN THE FINAL OF THE MASTERS IN ‘97 AGAINST DAVIS
It was quite bizarre really. The weird thing was, I was sitting opposite her, so I saw her taking her clothes off and I was thinking ‘what she’s doing now?’ And then she ran down and did a couple laps round the table – I think she was waiting for somebody to take her away, but no-one did. But yeah, it was quite funny.
ON HANDING HIS CUE OVER TO A SPECTATOR AT THE ENGLISH OPEN
You could just tell she was no threat and all the security guards come running out, and I thought, oh I hope they don’t grab her to the floor. So, I went, ‘Hold on, let her have a shot.’ So, I gave her a shot, she tried, she was happy, took her shot and off she went.
So, Ronnie admitted to having been naughty about the 146s … in protest against the dwarfing, then the disappearance, of the reward offered for a maximum. One can look at this in many ways, and argue that players are out there to entertain, which is true but only in part. They are there to win, first and foremost, and to earn a living. How they play, and the shot they chose to take is their decision and theirs only. Usually, going for a 147 involves taking risks at some point. It may not be worth it, even if the frame is safe: after all, there is a reward for the highest break, and the 146 – or less – might do the trick just as fine. For years, before the media became centuries obsessed, and before snooker was as reliant as it is today on the betting industry, Mark Williams was known for pushing balls safe as soon as he was confident that his opponent wouldn’t come back to the table. I can’t remember him being blamed for it back then. He was just eager to go on with the matches (*)
Update: the vodcast is now available although it’s “shorter” than the audio.
Also, WST looked back at Ding Junhui’s Crucible career and significance in the context of snooker in China. But I find those Crucible Golds a bit disappointing. To much emphasise on big breaks, and not much on the “stories” behind some matches, or “runs” in the championship.
(*) Willo also frequently conceded frames whilst still being mathematically able to win, when he felt that his chances to actually win were very slim. He did this mainly in qualifiers, not on television. Again, the idea was to not spend a lot of energy on a lost cause and get on with the next frame.