Ronnie O’Sullivan insists that John Higgins has been his greatest rival – just ahead of fellow Scot Stephen Hendry.
O’Sullivan and Higgins, with nine world titles between them, have been left kicking their heels ahead of this weekend instead of preparing for a Crucible campaign.
The 17-day marathon was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic along with so many other top sporting events – with a new provisional slot pencilled in for late July.
The Rocket and the Wizard of Wishaw have graced the game since both turning pro in 1992 along with Welsh legend Mark Williams.
But O’Sullivan, 44, who also played record seven-time world champion Hendry at his best, puts Higgins ahead of the rest.
He said: I’ll have to say the rivalry with John Higgins was my greatest. He has kept me on my toes more than anybody.
“We’ve had some great battles. I’ve taken some really bad beatings from John, they’ve hurt, but like I said when you’re younger the ones that hurt make you stronger.
“If I was taking those beatings now, I’d run a mile. I’d be like ‘I’m not up for this’ but when you’re younger you’ve got no fear.
“You just want to improve, you’re single, you’ve got nothing else going on in your life and it’s all part of making you a better player.
“But as you get older, you don’t want to be taking those beatings, so you don’t learn so much when you’re older. Me and John have had some fantastic matches.
“Stephen Hendry came along after Steve Davis and Jimmy White, and he’s probably taken the game to a new high.
“It would be hard to say that anyone has taken the game on further than Hendry. Hendry I still think if he was in his prime, we were all in our prime, he would still be winning many, many titles.
“But the first time I’d seen John Higgins he was 14. The first I’d heard was that this Scottish kid had nearly had a 147 in the home internationals.
“So that was the buzz going round at the time. I didn’t even know what John looked like but after we heard that we had to watch him play and watching him play I thought this kid looks super good.
“Then from that moment on, I knew John was going to be a class, class player.
“There was a lot of good players around, but along with Mark Williams we were hungry, we had the desire. We loved it, we wanted it.
“For a lot of snooker players, it was just a bit of a lifestyle, they used to go round there and have a bit of a laugh and a joke.
“But we took our business seriously. But I think it helped that the three of us came through together because I think we all motivated each other to try and do better.
If one of us was doing well it would always spur the other one on to do well. So, it was a healthy rivalry really.”
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