The folks at worldsnooker.com are running an interesting poll asking who will win the most ranking titles in their career: Ronnie O’Sullivan or John Higgins.

Almost everyone who has voted as I write this has plumped for Ronnie. This is an interesting conclusion as after 17 years on the circuit it’s currently O’Sullivan 21, Higgins 20.

Certainly Ronnie is ahead on most meaningful stats: tournament wins, maximums and centuries, but these are the two finest players of the last decade and I don’t think there will be much in it when they finally hang up their respective cues.

Which begs the question, how much longer can they continue at the top level?

John is 34 and Ronnie will be in December. Most players start to decline in the mid 30s but many can continue to play to a high standard into their 40s.

O’Sullivan is the most naturally gifted player in snooker history (although as he himself is keen to stress, his success has come from hard work, not simply showing up).

Higgins is the best all round player since Steve Davis. His mix of attack and defence, as we saw at the Crucible this year, is deadly.

Which of these attributes will most likely guarantee longevity?

I suppose it depends on a number of factors. Natural talent endures. You can still see it in the likes of Jimmy White and Tony Drago. However, as players age unforced errors creep into their games and consistency goes out the window.

O’Sullivan gets frustrated now, even when he’s playing unbelievably well, so how is he going to cope when he starts to decline?

Higgins may be revered as a master tactician now but if this side of his game becomes less effective he may find results harder to come by.

But surely the most crucial factor is this: desire. How much longer do Ronnie and John really want to continue?

I suspect I’m in a minority here but I fancy Higgins to pack the game in before O’Sullivan.

If you listened to my podcast interview with him it’s clear it’s something he has thought about. As much as he loves snooker, he is a family man and has his sights set on various off table activities.

If he slips down the rankings, certainly out of the top 16, he may decide enough is enough, though this is a number of years away.

O’Sullivan may be tortured at times by snooker but it is the glue that holds his life together. He has many times threatened to retire or take a break, including after two world title wins. But he first talked of it at the age of 18 and he’s still going strong.

I think he would find it hard to walk away. There will come a time – as for every player – when it will happen but I don’t think it will be any time soon.

O’Sullivan can, I suspect, still win titles when he’s in his 40s. That sort of talent doesn’t just disappear.

For this reason, he will probably finish ahead of Higgins on the all time ranking titles table.

Whatever, both players belong high up on any list of the all time greats.

For all the talk of young up-and-comers, O’Sullivan and Higgins remain the men to beat not just at the moment but for the foreseeable future.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog and completely agree. I laugh at suggestion of O'Sullivan being in decline. He will still be winning tournaments in his 40's and 50's if the game is still big enough to warrant his inclusion.

There is a cigarette paper between O'Sullivan and Higgins but I give the edge to O'Sullivan. Here's hoping Williams will rejoin them in his rightful place.

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic - good to see World Snooker has it's provisional tournament calendar on it's website at last. Mind you, it doesn't take very long to read...

Anonymous said...

Ray Reardon was able to win titles in his 40's, but snooker was a very different game back then. I think Higgins may win more titles than Ronnie, as Ronnie is only getting more and more bored with the game, whereas Higgins doesn't find the game boring.

Anonymous said...

Ray didnt turn pro until he was about 35

Anonymous said...

ros got/is getting more votes because hes the viewers choice / housewives choice. that is quite simple to most who have followed snooker for the last 30 years or so....the favourite player of eras win popular votes etc for things even when its clear theyre no more worthy or likely to have won.

in this case its clear to tell that those voting dont have a crystal ball and on the records so far theres no indication as to what one is more likely, hence the reason i think ros is far ahead is due to how popular he is (because he can run round the table quickly and has a nice bum, allegedly)

pS - posted tongue in cheek (but also honestly) before anyone thinks its a post to start a big arguement

Anonymous said...

What a great read, Dave. You're scribbling is truly wasted on this blog.

You should be working on "in sports" like darts and cage-fighting.

That's where the "big bucks" are these days!!


Donal said...

What the hell was all that about?
Anyway, I just wanted to take issue with your comment:

"Higgins is the best all round player since Steve Davis."

Aren't you forgetting somebody?

Dave H said...

When I wrote the above there had been just 100 votes in the poll. There have now been around 2,000 and Higgins has taken a clear lead.

jamie brannon said...

O'Sullivan is ahead of him in every statistic that matters apart from World titles where they are level. I think both can be winning World titles until forty but not after that. They would win more but their long potting is not what it was, and that is a trademark sign of age catching up with you. I like how David ends it as since 1998 when Higgins won his first title, the eventual champion has had to beat either O'Sullivan or Higgins. The only exception was Mark Williams in 2003. Who I may add is not in the same bracket as these two.

Dave H said...

He's not any more but for a time he was better than either of them. After all he won the world, UK and Masters titles in the 2002/03 season, something neither O'Sullivan or Higgins has done in a single campaign.

Anonymous said...

well said dave. Tell him how it was and not what he would like it to have been.

Anonymous said...

"After all he won the world, UK and Masters titles in the 2002/03 season, something neither O'Sullivan or Higgins has done in a single campaign."

Ronnie could have done it, but wanted others to have some kind of record to their name.

You are forgetting Williams also won the GP, so had all four BBC titles at one time.

Again, Ronnie could have done the same but decided to go running instead ...

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that last post probably isn't even a joke

jamie brannon said...

Williams is an all time great but I'm talking about over their whole careers, he is a little below them now. I mean at one point Ronnie was playing far better than Higgins, you have to look at it from a career perspective not just a single year or season.

Dave H said...

All true, Jamie, but you can't really assess a players' career properly until it's over.

Not that that stops me doing it on an almost daily basis.

jamie brannon said...

True, but I will say one more thing Williams for me will not be World Champion again.

Dana said...

to second anonymous - where is new provisional calendar? I can't find it at WSA site