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Ronnie O’Sullivan: snooker great reaches ‘Tiger Woods level’

The Rocket has equalled Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world championship wins

Ronnie O’Sullivan is once again snooker’s world champion after an 18-13 win over Judd Trump in the final at the Crucible. The success in Sheffield means “The Rocket” equals Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world championship victories. 

The 46-year-old has now won an “unsurpassed 21 titles” across snooker’s “prestigious ‘Triple Crown’ events” – the World Championship, the UK Championship and the invitational Masters, the BBC reported. This is three more than Hendry’s 18 and six more than Steve Davis achieved.

Speaking after his win against Trump, O’Sullivan played down his achievement of equalling Hendry’s modern-day record tally. “I think it meant more to him [Hendry] than me to have seven world titles but we will share it,” he said. “Hendry is an absolute legend of the game. It is just a number – I do not get too caught up in that.”

Hendry: ‘He’s an artist, a winning machine’

The Englishman may play down his brilliance on the baize, but Hendry believes O’Sullivan has “taken the game to new levels” and despite saying he’s not bothered about records “he will want eight”. Speaking on BBC Two, Hendry praised the world No.1 for his safety game, temperament and killer instinct. “He’s got it all,” said the Scot. “He’s an artist. He’s a winning machine.” 

John Parrott agreed that O’Sullivan is on another level and described him as the “most talented sportsman in Britain” and the “best player” he has ever seen. This is “Tiger Woods level”, said the 1991 world champion. 

Beaten finalist Trump, who won the world final in 2019, was just happy to make a match out of it after coming back from 12-5 overnight to cut O’Sullivan’s lead to 14-11 in the afternoon session. When asked about his rival’s seven titles, Trump said it was an “amazing achievement” and he will go down as “the best player of all time”. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan plays a shot left-handed as referee Olivier Marteel watches on

Ronnie O’Sullivan plays a shot left-handed as referee Olivier Marteel watches on

Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Sporting enigma

If you’re ever looking for a “dictionary definition of a sporting enigma”, then O’Sullivan is not too far away, said Paul Higham on Planet Sport. There’s no arguing that he is the “most naturally gifted snooker player of all time”, but The Rocket has also had his fair share of big controversies. “Just when you think he’s out for good, his love of the game brings him back to the baize, and just when you think he’s cruising, he’ll do something outrageous either on or off the table.”

Since making his professional debut in 1992 and his Crucible debut in April 1993, at the age of 17 years and 134 days, O’Sullivan has become snooker’s biggest star. Looking more like a lead singer from a BritPop band than a snooker player, he has brought some rock and roll sparkle to the sport. 

He has also never been afraid to share his opinion. In 2016 O’Sullivan deliberately passed up the opportunity of a 147 maximum break at a tournament in Cardiff because the £10,000 prize money was “too cheap”. And two years later he launched a scathing attack on the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley, calling the 2018 English Open venue a “hellhole” which smelled of urine

‘Mercurial, irrepressible, bewitching’

During the final of the world championship, a “fired-up” O’Sullivan was involved in an “extraordinary confrontation” with referee Olivier Marteel, said Hector Nunns in The Telegraph. A “hugely anticipated showpiece” was “overshadowed” in the first session by two “heated clashes” between the world No.1 and Belgian official, which resulted in the furious 46-year-old accusing Marteel of “looking for trouble”. 

The “mercurial, irrepressible, bewitching” O’Sullivan is “one of a kind”, said Nick Metcalfe on Sporting Life. He’s “not a saint” and controversy has “never been far away”, but it’s “all part of the O’Sullivan package of course”. 

No sportsperson’s brilliance “gives them free rein to behave how they like”, said Ben Bloom in The Telegraph. But anyone truly offended by O’Sullivan’s actions or words “needs to have a rethink”. The fact is that when O’Sullivan speaks, “you want to listen”, and when O’Sullivan plays, “you want to watch”. Snooker would be a “far worse place without him”.

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