Trump: O'Sullivan not among the favourites
EXCLUSIVE: Judd Trump bases his attacking game on Ronnie O'Sullivan - but the new China Open champion cannot see his boyhood idol lifting a fourth world title at the Crucible this year.
World champion Neil Robertson faces Trump on the opening day of the tournament on April 16, and shares the Bristol player's assessment about O'Sullivan's prospects.
The Melbourne player professes the view that the winner will come from inside the top eight seeds. O'Sullivan goes into the tournament as the 10th seed.
O'Sullivan remains the headline act among the public, but will appear at the event having endured his worst sequence of results since he turned professional in 1992.
The three-times world champion has suffered defeats in the first round of his past four tournaments. He has opted out of several tournaments, and was berated by World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn for withdrawing on the eve of the German Masters back in February citing ill health.
O'Sullivan is dealing with issues in his personal life, including a custody battle with his former partner to spend time with his children Lily and Ronnie Junior.
O'Sullivan won the World Championship in 2001, 2004 and 2008. He remains the sport's most naturally gifted player, but the new generation are hardly running scared of him.
John Higgins is favourite for the tournament with sponsors Betfred at 5/1 with Mark Selby at 6/1 ahead of O'Sullivan and Mark Williams, who are 8/1. Ding Junhui is 17/2 with Robertson at 9/1. Trump is 40/1 to carry off the trophy.
Speaking days after downing Mark Selby 10-8 to win his first major title in Beijing, Trump, 21, aired his doubts over O'Sullivan's ability to claim a fourth title.
"My idol has always been Ronnie," commented Trump. "He is just so natural, and is so gifted in the way he plays.
"John Higgins's mindset makes him one of the best the game has seen.
"I don't know about Ronnie if I'm honest (being among the favourites) - he hasn't shown a lot this season, but John is different. I always expect John to play well at every tournament.
"I also wouldn't count out Ding Junhui. This could be his chance to prove himself over a longer distance."
Robertson is not sure if O'Sullivan will be mentally motivated to last the 17 days, but says nothing would surprise him.
O'Sullivan faces a challenging match in the opening round against Dominic Dale. Robertson remembers O'Sullivan struggling to overcome Andy Hicks 13-11 in the second round in 2004 before winning the event with convincing victories over Anthony Hamilton, Stephen Hendry and Graeme Dott in the final.
"Who knows about Ronnie? He could lose first round, or could play his best snooker and win it," said Robertson.
"I wouldn't say he doesn't have the game to win it, but it depends on how he is mentally.
"It could all click for him, and he could do really well. I think five or six years ago when he won it for the second time, he won a close match in the last 16.
"He wasn't showing any interest, making gestures and stuff like that, but he was unbelievable from the quarter-finals onwards.
"It is just how he clicks really. If he gets the bit between his teeth and thinks "right, I'm going to prove everybody wrong here" we could see a very dangerous Ronnie O'Sullivan.
"But if he thinks that at this moment in time, snooker is not really my focus then so be it.
"We have to respect that as well. He's been at the top for 20 years now, and it is a long time to be able to keep going. Apart from Steve Davis, who is a freak of nature in still going over 30 years later and a huge inspiration to a lot of sportsmen - even 20 years is a long time. "