Monday, 14 November 2011

Has O'Sullivan under-achieved?

Ronnie O'Sullivan is a snooker legend, one of the most successful of all time.

In a glittering career, he's won three world titles, four UK titles and four Masters crowns.

But in a frank interview following his defeat to Judd Trump in Antwerp, he said his career is one of under-achievement.

He said: "I should have won two more World titles, two more Masters and maybe another UK. I've been in nine Masters finals and I should have converted another couple of those.

"I could have had Stephen Hendry's records in sight, but I have had a lot of ups and downs in my career. I suppose with the mindset I have had at times, I should be happy with what I've achieved.

"I'm still excited when I look forward to the big events. I'm happy to be the underdog now, even though I would much rather be among the favourites and really fancying my chances. The other players have flown past me and rankings don't lie. I'm coming from a different place where I enjoy events and hope to nick a big scalp. There is no pressure on me to win."

When asked about John Higgins and Mark Williams, who broke through to the professional ranks in the same year, he added: "Those two are still winning titles.

"I was doing the same until two years ago, but I'm not any more so I'm not in that category. Then you've got Mark Selby who is World No 1 and very consistent, Shaun Murphy, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui. There are eight or nine players who are winning everything, and I'm not one of them. It's touch and go whether I'll even be in the top 16 when the World Championship comes around."

Snooker fans across the country have been chewing over these comments all day long, and opinion is very much divided.

Ronnie is the most naturally-gifted player ever to pick up a cue and has enjoyed success in his career far greater than most players.

There are great players who will never become world champion and, the standard is so high, winning titles is tough.

As Ronnie says himself, he has a good haul of major honours and, in my opinion, he will always be able to look back on a great career.

O'Sullivan has given a lot to snooker, but likewise the game has given him plenty back.

It is natural however for a player of O'Sullivan's vast talents for forever want more and more. I'm pretty sure when he's on song, I've never seen a better player. At his best, he makes a very difficult game game look effortlessly easy and controls the cue ball to a standard beyond anyone else.

There are more ingredients that determine what a player achieves in his career though.

In Ronnie's case, frame of mind has arguably held him back from even greater greatness. O'Sullivan has the ability to have challenged Stephen Hendry's record seven world titles but perhaps hasn't got there because he at times has lacked the same ruthless determination of the Scot.

That said, they are different players and were at their height of power in different years. So to directly compare them, may not be entirely fair.

While I'm conscious my answer to this question means I'm  in danger of sitting on the fence, I am also aware of not wanting to sound too overly-controversial behind the protection of my computer screen.

I agree with a lot of what Ronnie says, after all, he knows what he's capable of more than anyone. It's right though that he should be his harshest critic, not others. He's won every tournament going, and that's no mean feat. And just because others would be proud to have achieved what he has, that doesn't mean he has to be. That's probably what separates a champion from a great. A great is never satisfied.

I'm keen this article doesn't come across as a line being drawn under Ronnie's career.

O'Sullivan is right, the rankings don't lie. He has been in no way consistent enough to be up there with the current crop of top players. But right now, he's playing like champion again.

This season, he has shown greater focus and application to the game than I have seen from him in many years and there is still time for him to add to his titles. Just around the corner is the UK Championship. Based on his recent form, I reckon he could do some damage there.

I will never take anything away from Ronnie's success. He has achieved things that will never be achieved again. But he is a perfectionist and will never be 100 per cent  happy with what has been and gone.

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