Ronnie O’ Sullivan-The Deceptive Master


There are an endless amount of ways to pass away a lifetime. Normally within this unknown time frame, we have to eke out a living to see us through from youth to old age. For snooker players this period is shorter than other professions and usually spans no more than twenty years. Those who make it to the pinnacle of the game are few in number and with good reason-the game is incredibly difficult and requires enormous hours of dedication.

A young player trying to forge their way is usually rash and impetuous. He or she will try to pot every ball, care little for long safety exchanges and generally show impatience against more experienced players. Ask a practiced twenty one year old to pot a long ball though and more often than not, by virtue of sheer confidence they will do it. Tell them to play safe if a chance amongst the balls breaks down in front of a big crowd and more than likely, you will find they can’t refuse an attacking opportunity and will thus go on to lose the frame and possibly the match.

Ronnie O’ Sullivan was once a young snooker player. He ran around the table knocking in sizeable breaks, taking on every pot with remarkable haste, and for a while he looked like the player who would bring snooker to a new level. But his early promise, though fruitful in terms of collecting prestigious titles here and there, left many observers of the game frustrated as he remained too inconsistent to dominate the game in the way his predecessor Stephen Hendry had done throughout the nineties.

All this has changed however, but only in the last few years. He accredits this, to time spent working with renowned psychiatrist Steve Peters. To watch O’ Sullivan now, is to see a sportsperson in almost complete control of their powers. Last week at Alexandra Palace in London he delivered some spell binding displays. Now, the ability to pot long balls consistently is the only flaw in his game. Everything else is an amalgamation of precision, execution and touch that to the casual observer makes the game appear preposterously easy. It is anything but this.  It is a sport where accuracy and concentration are paramount to success and he somehow manages to combine all the skills of the game to perform in a nonchalantly effortless way which makes his opponents look vastly inferior.

Just two years ago he had only three world titles, a pitiful haul given his talents. John Higgins, the other truly great player of his era had four and held ambitions to go on to win many more. But since that time O’ Sullivan has matured into the player snooker fans always hoped he would be. Still mercurially effective amongst the balls, he now exhibits a safety game unrivalled among all his competitors and leaves opponents exasperated if they have a chance to come to the table.

At the Masters, an invitational tournament, reserved for the World’s sixteen highest ranked players, he gave a truly glorious performance in winning his fifth title, only dropping seven frames along the way. Stuart Bingham was dispatched with ease. I watched in awe as he dismantled Ricky Walden, creating a new record for points scored without reply. He reduced Stephen Maguire to a dithering mess and most astonishingly of all he destroyed the terrific Mark Selby at a canter winning the final ten frames to four.

His next mission will come in April at the home of snooker- The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. There he will aim to win three world titles in a row, and equal the haul of the legendary Steve Davis. The passage from a youthful apprenticeship to journeyman is complete. It includes his masterpiece-a maximum break of 147, created back in 1997 in five minutes and twenty seconds.  Now he is the just the master-and a deceptive one at that.

Image courtesy of BBC

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