The same but different

Dec 4 / Snooker System

Reflections on another of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s signature weeks on the baize

While there’s nothing new about seeing Ronnie O’Sullivan – snooker’s greatest ever player – holding one of the sport’s major trophies in the air live on the BBC on a Sunday night, this time it felt different. Very different.

Not even a fortnight after the premiere of his remarkable documentary – The Edge of Everything – there he was a winner again and yet now you can’t help but feel we know this great sportsman to a whole new level.

Chillingly intense and deeply private, the cinematic footage we all saw just days before was touching and, at times, even gruelling. Being told that a man of such immense talent suffers out there on the table is one thing. But to see – and feel it – is very much another.

The angst. The self-criticism. The constant drive for perfection and the battle for peace.

O’Sullivan let all of us into his life to witness his raw emotions beyond what we may have expected. It was a snapshot of what it really is like to be Ronnie. While for three decades we have all marvelled at his achievements, now we know just what it takes for him to rise to the challenge each time.

And for this, you can’t help but admire him even more.

Still re-writing history

Another chapter of O’Sullivan’s astonishing snooker career was written on Sunday night in York.

His capture of an eighth UK Championship title makes him not only the youngest ever winner of the event after his heroics as a 17-year-old prodigy back in 1993 but now the oldest too. This just underlining the greatest part of his success – his unrivalled longevity at the very top.

Because staying at the top isn’t something you are entitled to; it comes at a cost. This is often born from dedication but, in Ronnie’s case, it seems to come from his resilience to keep finding what it takes even when it looks to be slipping from your grasp.

Ronnie has now won 22 of snooker’s Triple Crown events taking him four ahead of Stephen Hendry – and you wouldn’t bet against there being more to come yet.

But this latest win was certainly not without jeopardy. There were definitely times over the course of last week that his bid to land the trophy in York did seem to be slipping away.

He had to recover from 2-0 to beat Antony McGill in round one and then twice needed a decider to see off Robert Milkins and Zhou Yuelong. It’s fair to say that Ronnie probably only produced his best in small pockets of the tournament. This obviously makes this win – aged 47 – even more outstanding. It lays down an even greater gauntlet to his rivals if this is what he can do at this stage of his career even without producing his very best snooker for more than just flashes.

In fact, O’Sullivan’s very best probably came when he could see the winning post in the final against Ding Junhui. With the match tied level at 7-7, it was then that the old magic came out as he powered to the line to wrap up a 10-7 win and add another huge title to his CV.

Do not underestimate this. An ability to produce your very best when it matters the most is not only remarkable but a special gift.

The phrase we hear so often is that we have run out of superlatives to describe O’Sullivan’s brilliance. But while the great man continues to find ways to reinvent his game and retain his place at the top of the sport, the very least we can do is dream up new ways to pay tribute a player who has without doubt done more for snooker than anyone.

He talked this week about continuing to play to merely spoil the CVs of the other great players operating at the top of the game. And quite frankly, however he finds motivation to keeping producing the magical nights in the majors, we should accept it.

In the space of a couple of weeks, Ronnie has let us into places so deeply private that he could be forgiven for never opening the door and then got back to business in a way that has been most familiar. But while his documentary has for many deepened our connection with the sport’s greatest ever showman, he still finds ways to mesmerise and surprise us both on and off the table.

Mr O’Sullivan; you’ve done it again and long may it continue.
Created with