By Mark Staniforth, PA
Ronnie O’Sullivan has dismissed the accolades that poured in after his Crucible victory on Monday night and insisted no amount of snooker world titles will convince him he is the greatest.
Most observers agree that O’Sullivan’s 18-13 triumph over Judd Trump, which matched Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world crowns, brought an end to any lingering arguments over the identity of the sport’s all-time number one.
But the 46-year-old shrugged off any question of comparisons and maintained there are still many elements of the game in which his rivals remain far superior.
“I don’t consider myself the greatest ever at all,” said O’Sullivan, who held off a valiant fightback by Trump having started the day with a seven-frame advantage. “There are a lot of players out there that I wish I had elements of their game in my game.
“I won’t consider myself the greatest if I win eight. I don’t want to be considered the greatest. I want to be known as someone who loves snooker and loves playing.”
O’Sullivan cut a figure of contentment for most of the 17 days of the tournament, and believes he has now struck a balance which will enable him to continue to enjoy competing for a number of years.
It marks a significant change in attitude for the Londoner, who has frequently threatened to walk away from the game, and often expressed his dislike for the unique pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Crucible.
“It’s hard to resist coming here,” admitted O’Sullivan. “I’ve accepted that three weeks of my year I’ve got to expect to go through the mill, and that’s a small price to pay.
“I’m prepared to do that. It’s great to win this tournament, but life goes on tomorrow and I’ll enjoy a few weeks off before getting back to work.”
Striking out alone as the first eight-time champion in Crucible history may be of no concern to O’Sullivan, but like his fellow ‘Class of 92’ members John Higgins and Mark Williams, he now sees no reason to step aside for a new generation of stars.
“I could probably play to my mid-fifties if I wanted to,” said O’Sullivan. “Tournaments like this will probably be a bit of a strain at that age, but I could probably pitch up and win one or two matches.
“All the other tournaments, why not? I enjoy being on the circuit, I enjoy being on the road. I don’t need the money. If I’m enjoying it and having fun with it, I’ll play as long as I want to play.”
Meanwhile Trump insisted he would not make the World Championship a priority after failing to land an elusive second Crucible crown.
Trump has already won 24 ranking titles and says he prefers the pursuit of regular trophies on the tour to a specific focus on getting anywhere near the multiple world titles held by the likes of O’Sullivan, Hendry and Steve Davis.
“I just try and win every single event, it really is as simple as that,” said Trump. “Hopefully I can win some more in the coming years, but if that means I have to not win as many world titles, so be it.”