Ronnie O'Sullivan with the World Championship trophy
Ronnie O'Sullivan with the World Championship trophy

Ronnie O'Sullivan: Snooker's greatest after equalling Stephen Hendry World Championship record

There is no debate any more. Ronnie O'Sullivan is snooker's greatest.

Most of us already thought that was the case to be honest. There's certainly never been a talent in the sport quite like O'Sullivan. This outrageously gifted performer has captivated us like no other player in the past three decades.

O'Sullivan is an artist on the snooker table in the same way Lionel Messi is on the football pitch and Roger Federer on a tennis court. Genius is a word truly befitting of this remarkable champion.

If you also like to judge these things on pure numbers, nearly all those already stacked up for O'Sullivan too. Most UK Championships wins. Most Masters victories. Most ranking titles. Most centuries. And on and on.

But there was always that nagging noise in your head – Stephen Hendry was ahead of O'Sullivan in world titles won.

Not any more he isn't. O'Sullivan joined Hendry on the magic number of seven Crucible crowns when he saw off Judd Trump 18-13 in the final.

Ronnie O'Sullivan leads the way among snooker's greatest players

O'Sullivan dominant from the start

Truth be told, O'Sullivan was the epitome of excellence throughout in Sheffield. He beat the dangerous David GIlbert first up, 10-5 from 3-0 down. Serial ranking event winner Mark Allen was swept away 13-4 in round two. The quarter-final against Stephen Maguire was also a non-contest, O'Sullivan winning 13-5.

He had dropped just 14 frames in reaching the semi-finals. It's all about preserving energy in this marathon event and O'Sullivan was doing exactly that.

Then came a different kind of challenge, one posed by another member of the famed 'Class of 92', John Higgins. It was a tense, tight battle. The obvious turning point came in the 16th frame. Higgins looked for all money like closing to 9-7 behind, but missed a frame ball black and O'Sullivan produced an outrageous clearance to force a respotted black, which he also won.

At 10-6, the Englishman never really looked back and he sealed a 17-11 win. O'Sullivan was into an eighth final.

Trump fights but O'Sullivan too good

The first day of the showpiece match against Judd Trump was one-way traffic. O'Sullivan fired in three centuries and many other valuable contributions as he surged 12-5 ahead.

We also saw the ugly side of O'Sullivan that day. At the end of the first session, referee Olivier Marteel gave the world number one a formal warning for making what he believed to be an obscene gesture. O'Sullivan pointed at the referee, saying 'don't start'. It was at best unbecoming from O'Sullivan, and at worst pretty intimidating.

It's all part of the O'Sullivan package of course. He's not a saint. Controversy has never been far away. It's also fair to suggest everything during O'Sullivan's Crucible fortnight was magnified even more than usual by the permanent presence of a film crew following him round for a Netflix-style documentary. What a stunning watch that is going to be by the way.

On the last day of the tournament, Trump made a real fight of the final. He won six of the eight frames in the third session to trail only 14-11. But O'Sullivan had three hours to clear his head and came out firing. History made.

O'Sullivan embraced Trump for over a minute when he sealed victory. The depth of his emotion was abundantly clear. A mixture of relief and joy at reaching snooker's Everest.

This feels like O'Sullivan's finest hour, his crowning moment. Not that he really had anything left to prove. This was all about rubber-stamping that greatness.

'Mercurial, irrepressible, bewitching'

Another way O'Sullivan outshines Hendry is sheer longevity. Remember, the Scot retired first time round at the age of 43. Here's O'Sullivan at 46, becoming the oldest winner of the biggest event in the game and topping the world rankings. It really is extraordinary.

When he burst onto the scene in the early Nineties, John Major was Prime Minister and Bill Clinton was in the White House. We'd never even heard of the Spice Girls. Scott and Charlene hadn't long left Ramsay Street for heaven's sake.

To still be competing at the top of the sport 30 years after turning professional is just extraordinary. The stuff of folklore. We must drink this in. We won't see anyone like O'Sullivan again, not in our lifetimes.

Let's remember too, he's done all this against a backdrop of much turbulence. A father in prison when he was just a teenager, myriad mental health issues and the ongoing intense pressure that goes with being one of Britain's best known public figures.

How long can O'Sullivan go on for? It's tempting to say, as long as he likes. He's clearly good enough to still be near the top for another five years, possibly ten. Snooker chiefs will hope that's the case anyway. O'Sullivan is pure box office, a man that transcends his sport.

Broadly speaking O'Sullivan seems to be in a contented place. He keeps telling us snooker is not the be all and end all. We all know about his contradictory statements and ways, but maybe we should take him at face value with this one. Whatever he's doing, it's certainly working.

This triumph will be surely be toasted by sports lovers everywhere. The mercurial, irrepressible, bewitching O'Sullivan. One of a kind. It remains a supreme pleasure to watch him.

More World Championship content

Like what you've read?


Sporting Life
Join for free!
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Race Replays
My stable horse tracker
giftOffers and prize draws
newsExclusive content

Next Off

Fixtures & Results

Fetching latest games....