13.11.09

THE 2000s: PLAYER OF THE DECADE

Ronnie O’Sullivan was the player of the decade, in terms both of most titles won and in the way in which he bestrode the sport as its biggest draw and brightest star.

The 2000s began with O’Sullivan in some personal distress. He checked himself into the Priory Clinic to receive treatment for addiction and depression but despite some well publicised blow ups, kept himself on an even enough keel to realise his full potential as the decade wore on.

On the final night of the 2001 World Championship, O’Sullivan watched as former winners of the title took part in a ‘Champions Parade.’

Ridiculously, Jimmy White was invited to take part, despite the fact he had never won the title.

O’Sullivan looked on as his friend, six times the Crucible runner-up, took his applause and resolved never to put himself in the same position.

He would beat John Higgins in arguably the highest quality of all 10 world finals staged during the decade. Theirs was a rivalry born out of friendship and mutual respect. At the end of the final, Higgins told him he was happy for O’Sullivan’s father that he had won the title, a gesture much appreciated by Ronnie junior.

More titles came: a total of three world crowns, two more UK trophies to add to the two he had won in the 1990s and three more Masters victories in addition to his 1995 success.

But there were slumps as well, including a two and half year gap between winning ranking titles at the 2005 Irish Masters and 2007 UK Championship.

O’Sullivan took instantly to the Premier League’s shot-clock and, with one to go, has hoovered up every title under the format – five in a row, taking his total haul from the decade to seven.

He achieved a level of consistency hitherto lacking in his career and spent a total of five years as world no.1.

There were, of course, headlines for other reasons, ranging from the explosive to the bizarre.

O’Sullivan was extremely unwise to bad mouth Stephen Hendry in such graceless terms before their 2002 Crucible semi-final, which Hendry devoted every conceivable ounce of energy and concentration into winning.

In 2006, he walked out of his match against Hendry at the UK Championship, a gross lapse in professionalism to some, proof of the debilitating effects of his depression to others.

In China in 2008 his crude behaviour in a press conference was front page news, although it soon began to look like a lot of fuss about very little.

The cracks in his fragile character were laid bare at the Crucible in 2005 when he went to pieces as Peter Ebdon grimly ground him down in their World Championship quarter-final.

Yet it is these very human qualities that have endeared O’Sullivan to so many. And it is he, more than any other player, who has drawn new fans to the sport, particularly in areas such as Europe and China where snooker has grown in considerable ways in the last ten years.

O’Sullivan cannot boast the consistent record Hendry enjoyed in the 90s but has been responsible for many of the most memorable moments of this decade.

In 2007, he made a century in each of the five frames he won against Ali Carter in the Northern Ireland Trophy.

The same year he ended an epic UK Championship semi-final against Mark Selby with a maximum.

He lost two terrific Masters finals in deciders, first to Paul Hunter in 2004 and then to Higgins in 2006.

And he destroyed Higgins in the 2005 Wembley final and then Ding Junhui in 2007, putting together snooker Steve Davis described as “unplayable.”

For O’Sullivan, this was a decade in which, for all his frailties and love-hate relationship with snooker, he came of age as a player.

Our sport should consider itself lucky to have him.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I began to watch Snooker in 2004 during the World Championships and it was at first such the charisma of Ronnie which fascinated me.

It was the start of a Snooker lovestory for me ;-)

Greetings from germany

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the last sentence Dave.

Anonymous said...

while i agree he is a fantastic player to watch i reserve the right to not like him as a person and do not consider snooker lucky to have him. in fact i look at it that he is lucky to have had world snooker.

just my opinion. one that maybe not the majority share, but nonetheless, my honest opinion.

(and no, i didnt form my opinion of him as a person on what i read in the papers)

jamie brannon said...

My top five players of the decade are:
1. O'Sullivan
2.Williams
3.Higgins
4.Ebdon
5.Hunter

Ronnie has defintely started to justify his genius this decade. The statistics show that, but also the manner of his snooker has been as Steve Davis said unplayable at times. His showings against Ding and Higgins in those Masters finals and his two semi final crushings of Hendry at the Crucible were benchmark performances. This was the decade where I fell in love with his mercurial brilliance and enigmatic personality. If I could only see one sportsperson or for that matter any sporting team before I died I would choose Ronnie as in full flight he is dangerously addictive.

Anonymous said...

i disagree jamie, his defeat after slagging off hendry and then his walkout against him cancel both of those matches out imho

jamie brannon said...

How do they cancel them out that makes no sense? I put Williams ahead of Higgins, but if I was doing all time then Higgins would be unquestionably ahead. Hunter just got the nod ahead of Murphy and Hendry, perhaps I was being a bit sentimental but his death was the decade's most profound moment snooker wise.

Anonymous said...

Never mind all that. I'm just impressed that Dave put a picture in the blog.

Anonymous said...

LMAO @1:21PM!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

jamie, youre the last person on here who should be saying others make no sense

i just dont bumlick one particular player and i take into account the good and bad things about them. i am not blinkered, but some are....

Greg said...

Sadly there's one thing missing from the story. O'Sullivan was never in an 18-17 world final like his predecessors Davis and Hendry (and also Reardon, who was in a deciding-frame final finish with Eddie Charlton)...

The Masters final this year was brilliant. As was the 2007 UK semi final. I just wish one of those epic matches could have been at the Crucible instead.

Trevor said...

jamie how can you have williams ahead of higgins at no.2 when he hasnt done anything of note since 2003.thats a big call

G said...

You forgot to mention that, during the "five century" victory over Carter, in the 2007 Northern Ireland Trophy, one of the centuries was a maximum. I know cause I was there (albiet at the next table watching Murphy beat Hendry, but I was in one of those seats where you can watch the two (or the three in this case) tables!

jamie brannon said...

I am not blinkered at all I have assessed O'Sullivan's position in the pantheon of players and called it without personal bias, its not like I am saying he is greater than Hendry although he is more talented. I chose Williams as I feel John Higgins was at his absolute best in the late nineties. Higgins from his UK title in 2000 to his Masters win in 2006 didnt win a single 'big 3' event so he had a lull as well. Williams also won one more ranking event the most recent of which was 2006. He also has done something that Higgins and Ronnie for that matter have not done and held the 'BBC grand slam'. It was that tight though if Higgins won the UK in December I might revise my list.

Anonymous said...

jamie, when you come out from inside ROnnie we can all say youre not biased.

until that day youll continue to talk the stinky stuff

enough already. the blog post itself is good, its just your comments that are lopsided.

Anonymous said...

1 team point for your grammar 10:03PM....

Anonymous said...

fank u 1147 for realising its not about how good someone is at inglish on here, considering a lot of forin folk read and post.

of course, if i thought it would make my points more valid id proberly try hardr

x

snookerfanatic said...

I was about to say the same thing as G - let it not be forgotten that one of his 5 centuries in the Northern Ireland Trophy was a 147.

I have a feeling a certain Prince Naseem Hamed may have been behind the 2002 outburst directed at Hendry. Remember O'Sullivan seemed to be best mates with him at one point and we all know what that arrogant little so and so is capable of. It was boxing speak before a big match and it was out of character for O'Sullivan so I personally don't hold it against him, and nor does Hendry. If Hendry doesn't, no one else should.

Anonymous said...

shaving clean is out of fashion lately ain't it?!...
hot for girls' hormone production!
disgusting!

Anonymous said...

Shaving or snooker blog? lol...

shaun said...

1 o sullivan 2 higgins 3 williams 4 hendry 5 davis the top spot is no contest but i have steve davis there just for still competing at the highest level for so long so he just pips physco ebdon

Anonymous said...

Have a gold star for that post 9:21Am dear oh dear...

Anonymous said...

wow a ghold *


yay

x

Anonymous said...

As a hendry fan I admit that o'sullivan is a truly wonderful player, unquestionably the player of the decade and possibly the second best player who has ever lived.And as much as it pains me to say it his performance against Hendry at the crucible in 2008 was astonishing maybe the best anybody has ever played.
However I lost all respect for Ronnie as a person the day he made those arrogant,disrespectful and disgrceful comments. Hendry's performance in that match and the dignified way in which he conducted himself showed exactly why he is the greatest.
Anyway thats just my opinion and i know not everyone will agree...

Anonymous said...

i agree except i wouldnt make him the 2nd greatest behind hendry MBE. id make him 3rd in line, at a push.

jamie brannon said...

I think Ronnie threw away the 2006 world title as much as the 2005 one, he ended up losing one session to Dott 8 nil in 2006 I remember he was more concerned with tip trouble than the match in progress. His comments were ill judged as it backfired on him, but he was within his rights to say it and at the end of the day it spiced the match up so no harm was done. He did Hendry a favour ultimately.

Anonymous said...

more drivel from jb

i couldnt disagree more with what you dreamed up there

Anonymous said...

I don't think Ronnie threw away that match Jamie i just think Dott played the better snooker, and don't forget he went on to become world champion that year something he's not given much credit for..

Anonymous said...

1. John Higgins
2. Ronnie O'Sullivan
3. Mark Williams
4. Peter Ebdon
5. Shaun Murphy

I think there is very little disputing the order of the first three. After than it's pretty close between Ebdon, Murphy, Hendry, Hunter.