Is Ronnie O’Sullivan the GOAT of snooker? Ranking the top five players in the game’s history, including world championship stars

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The 2022 World Snooker Championship is underway at the Crucible Theater in Sheffield and much of the attention, as always, is on Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The Englishman can match Stephen Hendry’s modern record of seven titles if he wins at this year’s event, which culminates on May 2.

He started his last campaign against David Gilbert, struggling from 3-0 down to win 10-5 with a high break of 122. Either Mark Allen or Scott Donaldson are waiting in the second round.

But where does O’Sullivan rank among the sports greats? Here is an overview of the place Sports News ranks him in the list of the greatest snooker players of all time.

MORE: When is Ronnie O’Sullivan playing at the 2022 World Snooker Championship? Road to the final, date, TV times

5. John Higgins

Age: 46

Since: Wishaw, Scotland

Turned professional: 1992

Career titles won: 47

World’s Championships : 4 (1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011)

Higgins has proven to be one of snooker’s most consistent players for over 20 years.

He won his first world title in 1998, beating Ken Doherty 18-12, and since then has reached the final seven more times.

The last of the Scotsman’s four titles came in 2011 (beating Judd Trump 18-15), but even entering his 40s he remained a force in the game and the fact that he was a three-time runner-up sequel between 2017 and 2019 shows how close he came to a fifth championship.

He was runner-up at the World Tour Championship event earlier in April, losing to Neil Robertson, underscoring that he is once again a real contender in 2022 to triumph 24 years after his first championship.

4.Alex Higgins

Age: Died in July 2010, aged 61

Since: Belfast, Northern Ireland

Pro of: 1971 to 1997

Career titles won: 31

World’s Championships : 2 (1972 & 1982)

Higgins, from Northern Ireland, is the only man in our top five to have won the title just once at the Crucible and not be ranked No. 1 in his career, having never passed second position in the ranking.

That’s because the stats don’t tell the whole story with Higgins. His maverick ways on and off the table helped establish snooker as a mainstream sport in the media.

Spectators and viewers never knew what they were going to get with the man nicknamed the Hurricane. One minute he could row with an opponent or a referee; the next day he would clear the table quickly with a stunning display of play.

He won his first world title in 1972 in qualifying, beating John Spencer 37-32 in Birmingham. His second crown came at the Crucible 10 years later when he beat Ray Reardon 18-15.

MORE: World Snooker Championship 2022 betting odds, favorites and sleeper picks

3.Steve Davis

Age: 64

Since: Plumstead, England

Pro of: 1978 to 2016

Career titles won: 84

World’s Championships : 6 (1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 & 1989)

Davis was the dominant force in snooker in the 1980s. Although not as dynamic as Alex Higgins, his consistency at the top of the game made him a famous face for people who weren’t just fans of this sport.

From 1981 to 1989, he only failed to reach the final once, a success rate unmatched by anyone in the Crucible era of the World Championship. His 18-3 victory over John Parrott in 1989 remains a record for the biggest margin of victory in a final.

Ironically, perhaps Davis’ most memorable match was one of the few finals he ever lost. In 1985, he was beaten on final black in the last frame by Dennis Taylor, with 18.5 million people watching BBC coverage live at the time.

These folks were tuned for a thrilling final, but also to see if Davis, the most imposing figure in the sport at the time, could be beaten in a fairy-tale way by underdog Taylor. Without Davis’ success and reputation, the match would never have generated such interest.

2.Stephen Hendry

Age: 53

Since: South Queensferry, Scotland

Pro: 1985 to 2012 & 2020 to now

Career titles won: 75

World Championships: 7 (1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1999)

The fact that his nickname was Iceman at the peak of his powers tells you everything you need to know about Hendry.

He became the sport’s youngest world champion when he beat Jimmy White in the 1990 final aged 21 and it’s a record he still holds.

For the first two-thirds of the 1990s he was nearly unbeatable, certainly at the Crucible where between 1992 and 1997 he enjoyed a 29-game winning streak that remains the longest in the tournament era held at Sheffield.

A mix of magnificent potting around the table and strong safety play set new standards for the rest of the field to try and achieve, as Hendry became not only the record holder for World Championship wins, but the only man to win all three. Triple Crown events in the same season twice.

Success began to dry up in the 2000s when O’Sullivan and John Higgins began to take center stage and Hendry retired in 2012, before returning to touring two years ago. The fact that he hit a 147, his third at the Crucible, at the 2012 event highlights the level of performer he already was back then.

1. Ronnie O’Sullivan

Age: 46

Since: Wordsley, England

Pro of: 1992

Career titles won: 75

World’s Championships : 6 (2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013 & 2020)

O’Sullivan lost his very first game at the Crucible in April 1993 to Alan McManus at the age of 17, but since then the Rocket have not looked back.

Like Alex Higgins, he almost transcends the game. His name is household name across the sporting landscape, even to people who have never seen an angry snooker ball, either live or on television.

His unpredictable nature makes for compulsive viewing and he’s seen him win every major gaming award, with six world titles spread over 19 years.

O’Sullivan’s only criticism is that he arguably should have earned more with his talent. Winning six world championships, and having that count as an underachievement, tells you what an outstanding player he is.

AFTER: World Snooker Championship 2022 prize money: How much money does the winner get and what is the 147 bonus?

Why Ronnie O’Sullivan is snooker’s GOAT ahead of Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis

So O’Sullivan is our best player despite having the same number of world championship titles as Davis and one less than Hendry, although that last point could change on May 2.

There are a number of reasons why O’Sullivan takes the top spot, but the biggest one is longevity.

O’Sullivan is the only player to win world titles in three different decades and remains the youngest player to win a professional ranking event, having triumphed at the 1993 UK Championship at 17 years and 358 days. When he won in 2020, he became the second oldest player to become a world champion in the modern era, and he has now appeared in the World Championships a record 30 times in a row.

There were times, both visually and vocally, where O’Sullivan seemed desperate with snooker. But it may well have helped him stay involved in the game. He often sought to distance himself from the challenges of being at the top, unlike other former greats who lived and breathed the sport and may have later suffered from fatigue and exhaustion.

You could argue that O’Sullivan didn’t dominate an era of snooker the way Hendry and Davis did, but O’Sullivan probably came up against the greatest depth of talent the sport has ever had during his time in the game and has always set a record. of 20 Triple Crown titles.

Among others, O’Sullivan had John Higgins, Mark Selby, Mark Williams, Judd Trump and Neil Robertson to face in his day, all players who were world champions.

Beyond the trophies, it’s the way O’Sullivan plays the game that still stands out. His 147 in just five minutes and eight seconds at the 1997 World Championship remains a record for a maximum break, and given how rare it is even to do so in the first place, it is unlikely to be beaten.

The fact that he has an online store and that there is a store in Sheffield during this year’s tournament selling his merchandise only further illustrates his overwhelming popularity with the public. It’s at the box office. He is the GOAT of snooker.

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