Ronnie O’Sullivan may be relishing the opportunity to sink into his slippers but he is adamant snooker’s greying ‘Class of ’92’ still have more to give as the UK Championship returns to the Barbican Centre in York.
The 45-year-old O’Sullivan begins his quest to extend his record-breaking roll of titles to eight when he faces former ranking event winner Michael White in the opening round of the tournament on Wednesday.
Combining that quest with his role as a Eurosport pundit is right up O’Sullivan’s street, but he also appears to be ready to rise to the challenge of extending his longevity at the top of the sport alongside the likes of John Higgins and Mark Williams.
O’Sullivan told the PA news agency: “At York I’ll be up there for 12 days no matter what, playing snooker and working with Eurosport.
“If I get bombed out it’s a 24-hour holiday. I like to get settled in, get comfortable, get the slippers out and the pyjamas on, get my toiletries out and say, ‘I’m here for 10 days no matter what, lovely jubbly!’
“While I’m not embarrassing myself on the table I’ll still get my cue but if I get to the point where I’m stinking gaffs out, and it’s not good for the people who have bought the tickets, then TV work will become a full-time job.”
Higgins headed into the tournament on the back of three consecutive final losses this season, and O’Sullivan said he understood the Scot’s assertion that despite his apparent successes, he no longer feels capable of sustaining his challenge to some of the younger players.
“There is probably an element of truth in that,” said O’Sullivan. “You can’t be going into your fifties and competing with players who are in their mid-thirties and early forties.
“You can’t be brilliant at something for your whole life, and I do believe there is a certain tapering-off period. That goes for me, Williams and Higgins.
“But I think what we need to be made more aware of is how long we have kept it going for, a bit like (Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal and (Novak) Djokovic. That’s something to be celebrated.
“I still think John is capable of winning tournaments but probably not as regularly as us used to. He is probably as good a player, if not better, than he has ever been, but winning tournaments is sometimes not just about the way you play.
“The older guys are still at the business end of tournaments more often than not. Maybe we are not as finished as we thought we were, but we are not going to be as dominant as we were.”
O’Sullivan’s theory is backed up by his own experience, having reached five ranking finals since winning the 2020 World Championship but lost them all.
But the UK Championship has represented a particular source of success for the Londoner, since he blazed on to the professional scene by sinking Stephen Hendry to claim the first of his current seven titles at the age of 17 in 1993.
“I think it does hold a special place,” added O’Sullivan. “It was the first professional tournament I won and it is probably the tournament that means the most to me, obviously with the World Championship.
“It was great to win the Worlds six times and the Masters seven times. All of these tournaments are great because they are our majors and the most important. You put a big asterisk next to them when they are coming up. They are the ones you want to win as a player.”
:: Stream the UK Championship LIVE on discovery+ and Eurosport app from 23rd November.