The Rocket Man is putting the band back together.
It has always been said that Ronnie O’Sullivan is as close to rock and roll as the somewhat sheltered sport of snooker can possibly muster.
Despite being a choir boy in comparison to 1980s hellraiser Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, a Northern Irishman who smoked, snorted, drank and punched his way into an early grave at the age of 61, O’Sullivan brings a similar sense of devilment, delight and a slightly infamous back catalogue to the green baize.
His best historical works include five world titles, seven Masters and five UK Championships amid a rampaging list of fines and battles with any form of officialdom that is sent to try him.
These include assaulting a tournament official a year before he made the fastest televised maximum of five minutes and 20 seconds two decades ago, plodding referees in white gloves, errant photographers snapping on the shot and his old mucker Barry Hearn, the World Snooker chairman he accused of “bullying” tactics a day after this 40th staging of the Crucible event broke off.
None of the hoary old sideshow matters when O’Sullivan has his head down focused on the business of what he does best. If there are any concerns about the Chigwell chap's ability to win this event for a sixth time it was dispelled in a quite impeccable 13-7 dismissal of Shaun Murphy in the last 16.
“Bands do world tours and it is all very nice for them because there is no pressure on him,” said O’Sullivan in summing up a tour of the Crucible that will next take in a quarter-final with Ding Junhui or Liang Wenbo on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I just need to be a supporting act. I don’t mind letting the other guys write the good albums.
“I don’t mind being invited along, bring him out for half an hour, here he is still alive, still can perform...“
Murphy was champion here in 2005 and a losing finalist in 2009 and 2015, but was made to look like an outsider by the opulence of O’Sullivan’s output.
Murphy looked as crestfallen as Job in defeat, but feels O’Sullivan has every chance of carrying off this event.
“If he plays the rest of the tournament with that level of determination and focus, I think he will win. Not that he can win, he will win,” said Murphy.
He is still the benchmark by which we all measure ourselves. If he turns up for his next game with that level of focus, whoever he plays is in trouble.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: O'Sullivan faces Blunt truth that sixth title could be his greatest hit