The 16 Seeds: Ronnie O’Sullivan
The last of our series of Cazoo World Championship previews.
By Phil Yates
Seed 1: Ronnie O’Sullivan
The record for setting snooker records is held by Ronnie O’Sullivan, who continues to build upon his legacy.
When he retired, Stephen Hendry was entitled to be recognised as the GOAT but the Scot’s excellent statistical marks, once thought unbeatable, have now largely been eradicated by the Rocket.
O’Sullivan has captured 39 world ranking titles, three more than Hendry. His total career prize money of £13,262,755 dwarfs the rest, his 1,198 centuries in professional competition are mind-bogglingly different league.
Less easy to quantify is O’Sullivan’s overwhelming impact on the sport’s profile and popularity. Pick your own descriptive term from a list that includes gargantuan and unprecedented.
In the modern era, lifting two trophies having overcome the cream of the game qualifies as a decent season. Not for O’Sullivan.
Pre-Christmas he outduelled Marco Fu to win the Hong Kong Masters before a world record 9,000 spectators before moving on to regain the Champion of Champions title at the expense of Judd Trump.
Yet, while both were financially profitable, neither were world ranking tournaments, an arena in which runs to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship and Welsh Open constituted very modest highlights.
Even so, O’Sullivan has clung on to the world number one spot for over a year and will journey to Sheffield as top dog in more ways than one.
It is difficult to believe now but, throughout the 90s, murmurings increased year on year that for all his genius the world title might prove just as elusive for O’Sullivan as for his pal Jimmy White.
Eight years after a precociously talented 17 year-old O’Sullivan became the youngest ranking event champion at the 1993 UK Championship, the doubters were silenced when he finally conquered the Crucible.
That jealousy coveted silverware has now been claimed on seven occasions, equalling Hendry’s heroics.
In the process, O’Sullivan has pocketed over £3.4 million in prize money from the World Championship alone, appearing in 20 quarter-finals, 13 semi-finals and eight finals.
Ever present since 1993, his next Sheffield century will be his 200th. John Higgins is second on the list with 164.
Previous Crucible appearances: 30
Matches played: 97
Matches won: 74
Crucible centuries: 199
Any keen student of form should harbour doubts over O’Sullivan’s likelihood to prosper. Those who understand how the Crucible ignites the competitive fire in his belly will remain unconcerned.
O’Sullivan’s credentials cannot be questioned. Of course, he is the man to beat.
But all good things come to and, aged 47, it is only natural to wonder if the game’s pre-eminent figure is quite the force he once was.
Aside from his debut 30 years ago, O’Sullivan has perished in the first round only three times. He has lost in the last 16 on six occasions. Early exits are rare.
If you think I’m about dismiss his chances, think again. Whatever he says to the contrary, breaking the tie with Hendry and winning an eighth world title will surely get the juices flowing.
Expect to hear shouts of ‘Come on Ronnie’ on May 1st.
Bookmakers’ odds on O’Sullivan: 4/1