NOW THAT RONNIE O’SULLIVAN has broken the all-time centuries record, what next for this remarkable snooker player?
In terms of centuries, it seems likely he will get to 800 by the end of the current season. The next target would be 1,000. That would be an incredible milestone to reach and would depend on how much snooker O’Sullivan plays in coming years and to what standard. But on current form it may only take him three or four seasons.
All this is taking for granted that O’Sullivan retains not only his game but also the desire to keep playing, but he seems to be in the best mental shape of his 23-year professional career and, now that a few records are falling his way, must surely be relishing breaking some more.
He came into this year’s Masters, for me, as the biggest favourite for the title since Stephen Hendry was in his pomp two decades ago. O’Sullivan has now won 15 successive matches encompassing his capture of the Champion and Champions and UK Championship titles, two German Masters qualifiers and his victories at the Dafabet Masters.
It will take a world class performance from someone to beat him at Ally Pally, but there are of course a number of world class players remaining in the field. Even so, O’Sullivan has won all ten of his previous Masters semi-finals.
The big records to aim at are all time ranking titles – Hendry has 36 to O’Sullivan’s 27 – and of course the modern day record for World Championship victories. Hendry remains out in front on seven with O’Sullivan on five.
At 39, there are no obvious signs of decline. They will have to come eventually but it is hard to predict exactly when – it could be another ten years, or they could creep in gradually, slowly undermining his confidence.
Remember, when O’Sullivan was 19 he threatened to retire. He did so several times more in the years which followed. He did take a sabbatical in 2012/13 but seems to be genuinely enjoying his snooker now.
So perhaps his greatest victory, regardless of records and titles, is that he has reached a place in his career where he is content. At many times since turning professional in 1992 it looked as if that would never happen but it has and it makes him more dangerous than ever.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.