Ronnie O’Sullivan bids for a record-extending eighth Masters title as the prestigious event kicks off this weekend. The top 16 players in the world gather at the Alexandra Palace in north London, including the Rocket, world No.1 Judd Trump, Mark Selby and defending champion Yan Bingtao.
Mr Bingtao and Mark Williams begin proceedings this afternoon at 1pm, with Ronnie in action on Tuesday lunchtime against Jack Lisowski Towards the end of last year, Ronnie admitted he will “allow myself to stink places out for another three years”, and will consider calling it a day after that.
Widely considered one of, if not the greatest snooker player ever to grace the circuit, he continues to delight fans with his witty outbursts.
Ronnie was asked for his thoughts on the pantheon of sporting greats ahead of the BBC Sports Personality award in 2020, shortly after Lewis Hamilton had equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula One world titles.
He said: “It is fantastic for Lewis to win seven world titles, but if your car is going around quicker you can afford to make a few mistakes and still get away with it. “It’s a bit like driving around smoking a cigar with one finger on the wheel.
He cited Hamilton’s immensely superior car at the time, before Max Verstappen pipped him to the 2021 title. Ronnie continued: “I wouldn’t have felt as good about my career in snooker if I had been playing on a table where the pockets I was using were bigger than my opponents.”
As a six-time world champion, seven-time Masters champion and seven-time UK champion, Ronnie knows better than anyone what it takes to be right at the top of his sport. He stressed the importance of a level playing field in sport, especially when naming the greatest sportspeople.
He said: “It doesn’t mean as much as say a sport like tennis with Federer playing everyone on a level playing field, or Kipchoge running against everyone on a level playing field. “Snooker is like that, too, with a level playing field.
“In boxing, certain boxers avoid certain fighters so that makes it hard for them to have credibility unless they fought the best. “That’s why you have to give credit to people like Tyson Fury because you know they won’t duck anyone and will fight anyone anywhere at any time.
Asked to pick his sporting Greatest of All Time (GOAT), he said: “So for me, [Roger] Federer, [Rafael] Nadal, [Novak] Djokovic, Phil Taylor in darts, Tiger Woods, [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo… it’s there to see.”
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been at the centre of football’s GOAT debate for at least the last decade, with former teammates and legends of the sport unable to decide.
The debate was perhaps best summed up by Barcelona star Gerard Pique, who gave a very diplomatic response, having played alongside both. “Cristiano Ronaldo is such a different player, they are very different. He is tall, strong, he’s really complete, he can do anything. He can do goals with the head, free-kicks, penalties, take one on one.”
Ultimately, the Argentine came out on top: “But for me, it’s like Messi is not human, but Cristiano is the best of humans.”