Ronnie O’Sullivan is not the world number one, but he is the bookies’ favourite because he remains the man to beat at this year’s world snooker championship at the Crucible, Sheffield.
There are estimates of a worldwide audience of 300 million, in around 90 countries, and all eyes will be on one man. The five-times world champion may not consider himself to be the best ever snooker player but he is certainly up there alongside recently-retired legend Steve Davis.
The 40-year-old is definitely the most naturally gifted player of his generation and on his day still remains unplayable. Being able to turn down the chance of a televised ‘147 maximum’ at this year’s Welsh Open because the £10,000 prize money was “too cheap” speaks volumes for his snooker ability and his ability to court controversy.
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He is more at peace and less impulsive than in his younger years as he reflects on his legacy in the game. He said recently: "Watching sport, I am a winner's man but I like to be entertained too. You have hit the jackpot if you have both."
Having said that, he is in trouble again for not fulfilling his media obligations after his 10-7 first round victory over Dave Gilbert, but O’Sullivan should surely be excused because he always plays with a fury and frenzy of someone who has better things to do.
It was after all, at the Crucible in 1997, that ‘The Rocket’ produced the fastest ever ‘147 maximum’ break in a breathless five minutes and 20 seconds, but fans will be concerned that he was heard 'banging, crashing and swearing' in his dressing-room after his most recent victory on Monday.
He could yet walk out of this year’s tournament, but as Steve Davis embarks on a second career as a techno superstar DJ, O’Sullivan still has a few more years left in the game.
The Essex man should win the 2016 world championship, but he probably will not, because the only person who can beat Ronnie O’Sullivan is Ronnie O’Sullivan himself.
And that is why the Crucible loves him.
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