Phil Haigh ✍️
Ronnie O’Sullivan is looking and sounding as focussed as ever at this year’s World Snooker Championship and he says this is partly down to trying to out-do his Class of 92 rivals and the other ‘lions’ prowling the Crucible.
The Rocket has strolled into the quarter-finals in Sheffield, beating Dave GIlbert 10-5 in the first round before thrashing Mark Allen 13-4 in the last 16.
O’Sullivan has Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals as he looks to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles and he seems in a very good mindset to achieve that immense goal.
‘Nothing fazes me, nothing bothers me,’ he told the BBC. ‘Wins, losses, tough, easy. It’s just all part and parcel of the job. Just take it all in, suck it all up and spit it out the other side.’
Also looking impressive at the Crucible this year so far are John Higgins and Mark Williams, the other two members of the famed Class of 92, who are all still going very strong as they edge towards 50 years old.
O’Sullivan admits there is an unspoken competition that exists between the three legends of the game as they look to out-do each other, with Williams seemingly leading the way right now.
‘There’s like a competition going on between me, Higgins and Williams,’ O’Sullivan told the BBC. ‘There has been for the last 30 years, maybe 35 going back to junior days, so we’ve kept each other going, we inspire each other.
‘Deep down we all want to out last each other, we’re motivating each other, it’s an unspoken motivation, if you like.
‘We’re helping each other be as good as we can. I think out the three of us, Williams is actually playing better now than he ever has.
‘He’s hitting the ball firmer, with more authority. I watched him play the other day and thought, “he’s an animal, an absolute animal, the way he hits the ball.”
‘It’s great to see, can never begrudge anyone playing some good snooker, they’ve put blood sweat and tears into it, I’m happy for Mark.’
It is not just those Class of 92 greats that are contenders for the Crucible crown, though, with the Rocket praising the likes of Neil Robertson, Kyren Wilson and Yan Bingtao for his performance against Mark Selby in the second round.
‘The Crucible is about who has got the biggest heart, who’s got a lion’s heart and there are a lot of lions left in this tournament,’ he said. ‘I was watching Selby and Bingtao today. John Higgins, Mark Williams, [Neil] Robertson, Kyren Wilson.
‘That’s what you need to win the world title. I’m prepared to dig deep, to go through the mustard, as my mate says.’
Williams has already booked his spot in the quarter-finals, where he will take on Yan. While Higgins must overcome Noppon Sanegkham for a place in the last eight, where either Robertson or Jack Lisowski will be waiting.
The quarter-finals begin on Tuesday after the second round comes to a close on Monday.
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