“Some days you’re the bug and some days you’re the windscreen.”

This is how Ronnie O’Sullivan, at a press conference at the Irish Masters, once summarised the vicissitudes of life as a top sportsman.

O’Sullivan was the windscreen at last year’s World Championship, winning the title for the fourth time in 20 Crucible appearances, wiping out everyone in his path.

For once, his threats to walk away from the game proved to be accurate. But the old maxim that absence makes the heart grow fonder appears to be true in O’Sullivan’s case.

Despite announcing last November that he would not play again this season, it was obvious when he turned up to watch some of the Masters – Mark Selby v Graeme Dott at that – that O’Sullivan was missing snooker.

During one tournament he was texting one of the commentators with his views of what was happening and what certain players should be doing. The lure of the arena with its attendant buzz was too much to resist.

And now he’s back. Having played only one PTC match all season, O’Sullivan returns to where he belongs: centre stage at the home of snooker.

The atmosphere at 10am on Saturday for his first session against Marcus Campbell will surely be electric. Even the BBC, who hasn’t shown the start of the championship live on network television for a quarter of a century, will be on at 10am on BBC2.

But how will O’Sullivan do? Could he conceivably win a fifth world title having barely played since capturing a fourth?

The simple answer is yes, he could. In fact, his very absence for the last year could make him more dangerous than ever.

Why? Because nobody quite knows what to expect. There is no form guide to go on. There are no results to pick over.

Some would argue that he will be rusty, that he will have lost ground on his rivals. Others would say he will be easily the freshest and that, anyway, he plays on inspiration not form.

O’Sullivan has not simply lain idle for a year. He’s been practising. He’ll be in shape.

He won’t, of course, be match fit like the players who have been competing on the circuit but I do believe that if anyone could win the world title having not played for a year, Ronnie O’Sullivan is the man.

He once won the Masters the week after smashing up his cue. It’s exactly the sort of challenge he enjoys attempting to rise to.

He doesn’t come into the World Championship this year worn down by snooker and waiting for the season to end. This is his season.

He’s beaten Campbell four times out of four. If he comes through on the first day the event gets tougher, the opponents get sharper. Any frailties and in particular rustiness are ripe for being exposed.

In some ways O’Sullivan has always been the unknown quantity. You see him play sometimes and think he should never lose. At other times he struggles - with opponents and his own often fractious emotions.

You never know what you’re going to get but this season is slightly different: he could have sat the Crucible out. He hasn’t.

That, for his rivals, already sounds ominous.


Anonymous said...

Quite simply, the best there has ever been.
It's in his hands.

Anonymous said...

Like the comment about Selby-v-Dott. Trust that Ronnie won't be sticking around to watch Dott-v-Ebbo on the Sunday!

Anonymous said...

If he wants it he can probably have it. The question is .. Does he want it.? Keep your money in your wallet or bet on Selby.

Anonymous said...

To me ronnie is favourite to get to the final in his half of the draw I don't believe for one second Marcus Campbell will punish him when he's in the balls, next ali carter in the last 16 the man has never beaten o'sullivan so he could have the mental edge over him, then there could potentially be Higgins in the quarters so will be his biggest test but the way Higgins has been playing mark davis could be a threat having knocked him out already at the uk. I can't see trump beating ronnie in the world semifinal purely because its a longer format and o'sullivan has got much more ammunition to his game than trump and ronnies safety is so underrated in my opinion judd hasn't got the safety game yet. His real test will come if he gets to the final and I think he will get there and play robertson that's my prediction I may be wrong but that's my gut feeling. Come on the rocket !!!

Anonymous said...

Well written piece Dave. Unlike a lot of players who need to practice regularly to perform to a high level, Ronnie is one of the rare players who can go long periods without playing and fall into his groove very quickly. I remember a few years ago Anthony Hamilton saying players would be back in the club after the summer break (back then) struggling to make a 30 with Ronnie making a 140 break after the second frame.

Agree, if anyone can do it after playing 1 professional match all season when it really matters then it is Ronnie, but I think either Carter or Bingham will end his challenge this year.

I did see somewhere Ronnie will be doing a Five Live interview this Thursday at 7.30pm. Looking forward to hearing that.

Anonymous said...

Come on Ronnie!

Anonymous said...

Re 10.06

Don't you mean "Quite sweepingly, the best there has ever been"?

When several players have won so much more than him, on what grounds can he possibly be described that way?

Anonymous said...

On another note - no 147 prize? I know there is a roll on season 147 prize (whatever this now?). I know 147's are frequent these days and at the championships, but surely there should be a car or something similar on offer for the first one. I assume there would be a conflict with the sponsor's Betfair if another sponsor sponsored a 147 prize, but events like tennis have more than 1 sponsor and I'm sure companies would be queing up to sponsor a 147 prize? Failing that, Betfair would get a lot more additional Kudos if they put up a 147 prize.

JIMO96 said...

Come on Marcus.....there's never been a better time than this weekend to record ANOTHER 2 session whitewash against a top player.

1998: Campbell 9-0 Hendry

2013: Campbell 10-0 O'Sullivan

Prove that there IS a god after all....please?

Anonymous said...


In the same respect that Federer will be compared to Sampras, Woods to Nicklaus, Pele to Best, Ronnie does not have to overhaul Hendry's record of titles to prove he's the greatest ever.
Remembering that Ronnie is not finished yet, but regardless, if greatness is defined by those who are able to demonstrate their ability at their chosen sport at the highest level, then it's Ronnie by a mile.
Ask Stephen Hendry, he'll tell you.

kimball said...


Anonymous said...

I think the 4th best player there has ever been (Ronnie) has a great chance, despite not playing on the circuit for HALF a season.

Anonymous said...

209, ive asked Hendry, in private.

Anonymous said...

Agree - Hendry is the greatest winner in the modern era, and O'Sullivan is the greatest player, regardless if he wins another world title or any title for that matter.

Ray said...

It's remarkable what Ronnie has achieved in snooker considering the inner demons that have afflicted him for many years. That's genius for you.

Of course he can win it again this year but why worry Ron because you have nothing to prove to anyone, least of all yourself. Surely the most important thing is to find peace and happiness in his personal life. I hope he finds it.

He's sprinkled his stardust over snooker for many years and given us so many magical moments that will never be forgotten.

Ron's right about the bug analogy. I liken the nature of all sports in this way - one day the cockerel, the next day the feather duster.

Anonymous said...

As much as id like ros to win it. i cant see it happening he rarely defends titles apart from prem league. also a year out i cant see it happening, but nightmare scenario would be losing to selby in final!

Anonymous said...

Several player whom ? There's only 2 players in my book, and yes you could make a case for ronnie being the greatest definetly the greatest natural player to have ever picked up a cue.

Anonymous said...

Re 2.09




So what's your yardstick for being "able to demonstrate their ability at their chosen sport at the highest level", as it obviously isn't any of these?

Anonymous said...

I think it's £10,000 and a golden cue really poor prize in my opinion for a global sport especially at the worlds.

Anonymous said...

If O'Sullivan can get thru his first match on saturday he will not play his second match for, I think another week. Then if he were to win the event he would play solidly for the rest of the event. This is a massive plus for him as he has said in previous years it is hard to concentrate for 17 days. So I reckon he can treat the second week as just a normal week long event. For this reason he could win it at a cantor or come very close


Mike Mouse said...

Saw a report he was working on a farm. He said: "'I get there about 8am, do my three or four-mile run first because it is right in the forest, then come back and do about six hours work. It has been kind of the opposite to what I was going through in snooker and I am really enjoying it.'

Love the guy - really hope he wins.

wild said...

if i was hendry id say it as it is.

"im the greatest player there's ever been"

but modesty doesn't allow him to say that

Anonymous said...


Hendry has played sufficiently well, sufficient times in order to pick up more silverware than any other player thus far.
O'Sullivan's best is better than Hendry's.
While Hendry's consistency is to be admired, he himself has only ever referred to one player as a genius, Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Ronnie's best v Stephens's best - Ronnie wins.
No question about it.

The Fish said...

If ROS did win it what does it say for the rest of the players?Its a big ask to do it,but i agree Dave if anyone can Ronnie can.

pat said...

Is the cue real gold Dave of just coated with Hammerite gold paint?

pat said...

Not modesty Wild more honesty on his behalf,he knows full well in his heart how good this man is and so does everyone else,if we are all too be honest.

Anonymous said...

Davis won more proffessional titles than hendry. Ronnie is without question the greatest break builder in the game he will soon overtake that he's only 80 odd behind and if he carries for another 5 years god knows what he will achieve with a clear head.

Anonymous said...

The standard in the 90s was poor come on !! Would hendry won as much world titles in this era I think not, he gets way too much credit beating desperate jimmy white in 4 finals who had no bottle and should of won 2 of them, nigel bond? Where's he now and boring Peter ebdon.

A. Player said...

Ronnie has always had the troll's support which in fairness is not his fault.

Hendry has more class, more ability and, most importantly, more titles than he ever will.

Jim said...

I just asked Hendry and he said Pinches was the greatest, dunno what all this Ronnie/Hendry talk is all about. Ronnie will fancy his chances this year with Barry out of the mix.

Colin M said...

Another great article Dave.

My riposte is "The Man's too Big, the Man's too Strong"...

If Higgins could come back after a 6 month ban and win the UK and, later that season, the World Championships, then I think that Ronnie is surely good enough to do it. I believe that his toughest challenges will arise in the second round and the quarter final where he will be most vulnerable. If he can survive close 3 session matches, he will be very well-placed in the semi and the final.

I am looking forward to some Rocket magic...perhaps something which usurps his awesome 92 clearance last year.

The top 16 could be in dire straits this year (boom boom), but we, the fans, won't be.
Dire Straits - The Man's Too Strong Lyrics(From: http://www.elyrics.net)

Well I have tried to be meek
And I have tried to be mild
But I spat like a woman
And sulked like a child
I have lived behind walls
That have made me alone
Striven for peace
Which I have never known
And I can still hear his laughter
And I can still hear his song
The man's too big
The Man's Too Strong

Anonymous said...

Would have to agree with Pinches - English Amateur champion at 17, runner up the year after, world amateur runner up from memory and a prolific pro am winner. There will never be another Pinches...

Anonymous said...

No mate

Anonymous said...

Stats don't tell the whole story. Jimmy was never in the same league as Hendry, and Davis belonged to another era, so Hendry never had to go head to head with an equal in his era. Ronnie has had Higgins, and to some extent Mark Williams. It took Higgins to put out Ron in 2007 & 2011, while Higgins lost to Williams & Ron in 1999, 2000, 2001, so both players could feasibly have been on half a dozen world titles by now. The late 90s up to now has just been a tougher competitive period, and who wins what not only depends on how good you are but how good your opponents are.

Anonymous said...

True, good point

John Michael White said...

As soon as I saw this, superb as ever, entry by Dave I knew how the comments would go.........

I just hope O'Sullivan manages to find the personal health and happiness that's seemed to elude him. Being World Champion, or being compared to this player or that, matters little if you're struggling with your health. It's understandable that he missed what's been such a huge part of his life while away, but who knows if it isn't only absence that'll make his heart grow fond for it? Or whether back in the heat of competition, or on the grind of the circuit, that fondness may once more wilt.

If he can find happiness whilst professional snooker is part of his life then so much the better for the game, if not he should focus on what will. I love snooker, and am on the very edge of my seat about what's coming, but it's just folk knocking a few balls about. We all have things in our life that make the game's importance pale by comparison.

jamie brannon said...

It is worth pointing out that BBC Two are going to be on air at 10am throughout most of this year's tournament, which is positive news.

It means during the first two sessions viewers will get a choice of tables for most of the day.

Anonymous said...

The telling thing in the Hendry v O'Sullivan "Who's The Greatest?" debate is that those who say Hendry, support their case with facts, while those who say O'Sullivan, support theirs by presenting sweeping opinions as facts.

"Quite simply, the best there has ever been"

"Ronnie is without question the greatest break builder"

"O'Sullivan's best is better than Hendry's"

O'Sullivan backers also have a tendency to use predicted or even possible future achievements as part of their case.

Maybe at some point in the future, O'Sullivan's achievements will surpass those of Hendry, but for now, they don't.

Until they do, all the facts support Hendry as the greatest ever. That's why his supporters don't need to present vague opinion as fact.

It seems to me that those who claim O'Sullivan as the greatest ever, don't remember how good Hendry was, never knew how good he was in the first place, or just have a blind faith in O'Sullivan and don't want to acknowledge anything which contradicts that view.

Jim said...

reply 6.04

Pinches aside Hendry for me is the greatest but its easy to see why folk rate Ronald above him, if you wanna start talking maxes and centuries, Hendry made 775 and 11 max in 27 seasons, Ronald made 678 and 11 max in 20 seasons. Clearly Ronald's strike rate is better and you do not need to factor in possible future success, you can clearly see Ronnie is the most dominate break builder ever. As far as being a winner goes, its Hendry without a question, how can this be argued. I'm pretty sure that Hendry would admit that Ronald's best is better but its not all about that is it, Hendry had the biggest balls and consistency when it came to it and he's got the record to prove it.

Anonymous said...

Ok, ok.
Each will appeal to different people for different reasons.
Nobody can argue with Hendry's record. A steadfast belief in his own ability coupled with a single minded determination resulted in snooker's greatest winner to date.
Having played at amateur level for close on 25 years, having made over 100+ century breaks along the way, when I first watched Hendry at a local club systematically destroying any and all opposition, including some if the finest amateurs for miles around, I knew that he was a very special talent indeed. That was 1985.
I followed his career with interest from that time all through his total domination throughout the '90's.
What he achieved was phenomenal.
Here's the but. When I watched Hendry compile a century, 147 even or pick up titles with apparent ease, it was always with a sense of admiration.
What I'm trying to say is, when I watch Ronnie flowing at his best, producing virtuoso snooker, I watch with a sense of total wonder, awe and amazement.
Perhaps it is unreasonable to declare who is the best on the basis of titles won, centuries made and so on, but in terms of pure theatre, panache, genius, call it what you will, then it's Ronnie. Every time.

Anonymous said...

Pinches ha ha ha !!!!

Anonymous said...

ronnies about 7 years younger than Hendry

what do you mean different eras?

ffs, theyre not 15 or 20 years apart

Claus said...

Ronnie went to watch Dott-Selby? Wow, that is akin to masochism!

Anonymous said...

Until they do, all the facts support Hendry as the greatest ever.

Except they don't, do they? Joe Davis won more world championships, and Steve Davis won more pro titles, so the facts don't support the view that Hendry is the greatest any more than they support that Joe or Steve are the greatest.

Between them, O'Sullivan, Higgins and Williams have been collectively a more dominant force than either of Hendry or Steve Davis, and no-one will ever know how their careers would have panned out if they had each had an era to themselves.