Laila Rouass responds to question about Ronnie O'Sullivan split
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The Rocket’s quest to join Stephen Hendry as a seven-time World Snooker Championship winner begins today, as the 46-year-old takes on David Gilbert in the tournament’s first round. It is a difficult start to what O’Sullivan will be a successful stint at Sheffield’s The Crucible Theatre, as Gilbert is currently ranked 19th in the world. But O’Sullivan, who last claimed a world title in 2020, remains favourite to beat his rival, as he recently became the planet’s number one snooker player, new rankings revealed.
And while O’Sullivan remains the sport’s most box office star, racking up an unprecedented 1,154 century breaks alongside his 38 ranking titles, the Essex-born potter has been highly critical of his rivals in the past.
This included when in an interview six months after his 2020 world title win, when O’Sullivan blasted the likes of Steve Davis, who he accused of “ruining” the sport as “he was just like a robot”.
Speaking on the Track and Ball podcast, the star noted how “every sport needs characters”, referencing the work carried out by the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Usain Bolt in promoting their respective disciplines.
O’Sullivan, who beat Kyren Wilson in the World Snooker Championship final two years ago, explained that in snooker now “there isn’t a lot of personality”.
He continued: “I don’t mean be flash or arrogant but just play with a bit of personality, express yourself, look like you’re enjoying it.
“Let it rip, give it a go, go out and enjoy it, because I’m doing that inside.
“I love the game, I’m like a little kid and I have to tone that down because people will say I shouldn’t play like that, but I’m still playing with personality, on my toes, bouncing, but I look at some other players and they’re like dead, they need a good kick up the bum, liven yourself up.
“I think Steve Davis ruined the game in the Eighties when he came along.”
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Before O’Sullivan and Hendry, who enjoyed an unprecedented period of dominance in the game during the Nineties, Davis was often considered the greatest player to pick up a cue.
Thanks to characters like Davis, snooker enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in the Eighties, at a time when the introduction of colour television came in the decade before.
It allowed players like Davis, Dennis Taylor and Alex Higgins to become overnight stars, but some, including O’Sullivan, were critical of some who didn’t perform well on the box.
He said: “Everybody else had a laugh and a joke and a bit of personality, then Davis came along and he was just like a robot.
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“As a person he’s got personality, but on the table he was motionless, sips his water, didn’t talk, didn’t show any emotion and that became the new snooker player, we all became Steve Davis clones.”
He added: “Now, all the snooker players are nice people if you speak to them off the table but on the table you think: ‘Mate, give me something.’
“They haven’t got none [energy]. They just go down, pot balls, play well, shake hands, good luck. I’m sure there’s some passion in there somewhere but they don’t play with enough of it.”
More recently, O’Sullivan has enjoyed an incredible return to form, as he readies himself to equal Davis’ incredible record of 30 appearances at The Crucible.
The Rocket began his snooker career in 1992, turning professional alongside fellow stalwarts John Higgins and Mark Williams.
Since then, he has won the most triple crown wins, most ranking titles won and most century breaks.
His return to the world number one position is the first time he has held the ranking since 2019.
According to the BBC, O’Sullivan was left surprised at his position at the top of the rankings, saying: “To get back to number one at 46, I’m a bit like ‘how did that happen?’. It’s a bit like when I won the world title in 2013 without playing for a year.
“Who does that? I think if I really had of applied myself to snooker over the years I could have possibly have been the number one for 29 years but life gets in the way.
“I was never like a Stephen Hendry or Steve Davis where I was devoted to playing and any distractions that got in my way had to go. I have had every distraction under the sun.”
The World Snooker Championship airs today on BBC.
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