Ronnie O'Sullivan does it again: is he now the greatest ever?

May 7, 2013

The Rocket wins snooker world title for fifth time, making Beeb blush and observers swoon

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THERE'S never a dull moment with Ronnie O'Sullivan. The man they call 'The Rocket' soared to new heights of brilliance on Monday night, winning his fifth world snooker crown before making the Beeb blush with a cheeky description of himself.

In the immediate aftermath of his tense 18-12 victory over Barry Hawkins, O'Sullivan admitted to the BBC's Hazel Irvine in a live interview that the hardest part of winning the 17-day World Championship was keeping his temperament in check. "Seventeen days is a long time," grinned the 27-year-old. "Everyone knows with me, I am up and down like a whore's drawers!"

Risque from the Rocket, but O'Sullivan had to say what he likes on the BBC after illuminating the final with another display of genius. In defeating Hawkins, O'Sullivan claimed his fifth world title, placing him third on the all-time list of snooker greats, one behind Steve Davies and two shy of Stephen Hendry's record-breaking seven.

O'Sullivan later dismissed suggestions that he deserved to be bracketed alongside Hendry (who won the last of his seven titles aged 30), saying: "Stephen Hendry is still by far the greatest player. Not just because of his game but also because of his bottle, his attitude."

But while O'Sullivan was playing down his achievements, the nation's press are unanimous this morning in hailing the Essex man as one of snooker's very best. The Daily Telegraph goes so far as to suggest O'Sullivan is "perhaps the greatest of them all", not just because of his ability on the baize but because of his showman's style. "Brilliant, mercurial Ronnie, with the filthy mind and the golden arm," says the paper.

The Guardian labels O'Sullivan a "wide-boy wizard" and makes much of the fact that he won his fifth crown after a self-imposed exile of nearly a year. Having played just one competitive match since winning the 2012 world crown, O'Sullivan also became the first player since Hendry in 1996 to successfully defend the title. The match, says the Guardian, "was a fine advertisement for snooker and featured eight century breaks, a record-breaking six of them fired by the Rocket".

The Daily Mirror can barely contain itself in the wake of O'Sullivan's exploits, describing him as a "snooker magician" and leaving its readers in no doubt who it ranks as the greatest of all time. "Davis and Hendry may have more titles," says the Mirror, "but neither have the bewitching genius, the mesmeric touch of class that makes the Rocket Mr Snooker."

The BBC, like many others, wonders what the future holds now for O'Sullivan. Will he try to break Hendry's tally of world titles or will he retire once and for all, as he hinted last week? "I'm well equipped to win more titles but it's not easy," O'Sullivan told the BBC. "I intend to play in some smaller events and, come December-January, I'll have a better idea what I want to be doing and whether my heart's still in it."

One man who hopes O'Sullivan returns to Sheffield next year is Steve Davis. "It is tough for others to live with if he is in any kind of mental shape," said Davis, now an analyst for BBC Sport. "Ronnie is the most amazing player we have ever seen in the game and I think we are all in awe of what he has produced."

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Without doubt the most talented snooker player ever.

There are few things more beautiful than Ronnie in full flow.