Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream.
The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams.
When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen for it to change.
“You look at them and think: ‘I would have to lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50.’ That is why we are still hovering around, because of how poor it is down that end,” the outspoken, five-time world champion said. “If you look at the younger players coming through, they are not that good really... They are so bad.”
O’Sullivan — who is bidding for a first semi-final appearance since losing to Mark Selby in the 2014 final — said playing in front of an empty auditorium was an unrewarding experience.
There were meant to be 300 fans allowed in for each session, but the pilot scheme was canceled by the government on the first day of the championships because of new concerns about COVID-19.
“It is better with the fans, of course it is,” O’Sullivan told the BBC. “It is like playing in a morgue out there. It feels like a village at the moment, the players are much more relaxed, for the top players it can be a nightmare.”
O’Sullivan admitted he needed to pull himself together as he battled to focus properly.
“I am just glad I found a way to try and compete with my mind out there,” he said. “For a while I have been going out and slapping the ball about having fun, not caring if I won or lost.
“Deep down I do care, but treat it like a bit of fun,” he said.
Earlier Australia’s 2010 world champion Neil Robertson set up an enticing quarter-final with three-time winner Selby after completing an impressive 13-9 victory over Barry Hawkins.
The 38-year-old made short work of Hawkins in their final session having begun it locked at 8-8.
He won five of the six frames to clinch a place in the quarter-finals for the eighth time.
Selby is likely to be a formidable opponent but, with three titles this season, world No. 2 Robertson will not be lacking in confidence.
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