O'Sullivan predicts snooker greats will continue to thrive behind closed doors

·3-min read
O'Sullivan is gearing up for a tilt at a sixth Betfred World Championship triumph at the Crucible
O'Sullivan is gearing up for a tilt at a sixth Betfred World Championship triumph at the Crucible

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes behind closed doors snooker will not stop the great pressure players from thriving, writes Will Jennings.

The 2020 Betfred World Championship will take place with no fans for the first time ever this year, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to have repercussions on the sporting calendar around the world.

The five-time world champion is yet to find out his first round opponent but will face Ding Junhui in the last 16 if he progresses, as he bids to narrow the gap on Stephen Hendry in the list of all-time Crucible winners.

Other sports have seen some unpredictable results since the resuming behind closed doors, while world No.37 Luca Brecel triumphed in the recent Championship League at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena.

O’Sullivan acknowledges certain players can spring a surprise but those great pressure players will always reign supreme.

“Whether there’s a crowd there or not, if you’re playing someone like a Mark Selby, Stephen Hendry – in his prime – or John Higgins, trust me, even when you’re practicing with those sort of players you still feel them breathing down your neck,” he added.

“I don’t think it matters whether there’s a crowd or not - it’s whether the opponents, and you, can play well with someone breathing down your neck.

“A lot of players will feel confident before the match but two, three or four frames into the game they’ll think ‘this isn’t as easy, and I’m not able to do what I could do against most opponents’.

“And that’s because you can only play as well as your opponent allows you and a top player will draw you into their way of playing the game.”

O’Sullivan has developed one of the game’s most formidable reputations over the years, firing in the sport’s fastest ever competitive 147 break in a staggering five minutes, eight seconds at the 1997 World Championship.

That thrilling potting performance came four years before his maiden world title as a 21-year-old O’Sullivan took the Crucible by storm, marking himself out as one of the sport’s most precocious young talents.

And the Rocket believes an ability to dictate games on his terms is what’s propelled him to those brilliant five world titles.

“It’s very difficult and that’s why the great players win regularly, because they tend to get the game on their terms and you end up playing their game,” he added.

“You really have to be on your game if you’re going to win the world title and be one of the major players.

“The players that win will be the players that deal with pressure.”

Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship and qualifying from 21st July – 16th August.