Ronnie O’Sullivan continued his sensational run of winning a title for every season since 1993/94 with his Shanghai Masters victory on Sunday, and wants his rivals to try and match him.
The Rocket won his first professional title at the 1993 UK Championship and has never looked back, now lifting a trophy for 27 consecutive seasons with his triumph in Shanghai.
The 43-year-old has won more Triple Crown events than any other player (19), and jointly holds the record for most ranking titles (36) with Stephen Hendry – a record he will hope to claim for himself by the end of 2019.
The five-time world champion took his career century breaks to 1,017 at the Shanghai Masters, which he won for a third consecutive year, and is showing little sign of slowing down.
O’Sullivan puts his remarkable longevity in the game partially down to his reduced schedule these days, which allows him to enjoy the sport and takes pressure off.
While he can relax in this environment, he believes his fellow professionals still have to prove themselves and has challenged them to do so.
‘Four or five years ago I decided I’d play when I feel like it,’ O’Sullivan told World Snooker. ‘So I don’t class myself with the guys who are always out there, looking for something to prove and achieve.
‘I don’t have anything to prove to anyone, I just think for me, and the snooker fans, for me top keep playing as long as I can, I think the fans enjoy seeing me play but they don’t expect me to have to prove myself anymore.
‘I have a different model, it’s just about enjoying it and having fun.
‘For the other guys like Shaun [Murphy], Neil [Robertson] and Judd [Trump], they’ve still got to try and chase them records that I’ve got.
‘If they want to try and go down as one of the greats, it’s okay doing it in a season or over two or three years, but you’ve got to try and do it over a decade or two decades and I’ve done that.’
The Rocket is ranked number two in the world, is still the most feared player on the circuit and with his relaxed schedule has no reason to be eyeing up retirement any time soon.
He has confirmed that himself, with his promise to fans that he will keep going for as long as he can, and a commitment to playing in Chinese events for years to come.
O’Sullivan posted on Instragram after his Shanghai win: ‘Very happy to have won the Shanghai Masters for the third time on the trot.. it’s been a super trip.. with some great matches to be involved in.. great way to start my season.. now I’m looking forward to what’s next.. boy I love Shanghai and China what a great place to visit and work.. will be coming back here for many years to come.. #china #snooker.’
World champion Judd Trump, one of the men Ronnie has tasked with ‘proving themselves’ has nothing but admiration for the Rocket’s immense staying power on the baize.
‘He’s one of the players that’s been around 25 years, so to be playing at your best for that long takes a tremendous amount of effort,’ Trump told World Snooker
‘He’s at the point where he knows what he needs to do, what he needs to enter, his practice, he’s worked that all out and that’s why you only see him at the tournaments he wants to be at rather than some of the other players who just turn up for the sake of it.
‘You’ve got to admire what he’s done and hopefully I can go out and keep my career going for the next 10 or 15 years.’
O’Sullivan’s consecutive run of title-winning seasons is all the more impressive when compared to his fellow ‘Class of ’92’ members, John Higgins and Mark Williams, both of whom have had multiple seasons since 1993 without picking up trophies.
Williams is in no doubt that O’Sullivan is the greatest player of all time, tweeting on Sunday night: ‘ROS = GOAT.’
ROS -= GOAT
— MARK WILLIAMS M.B.E (@markwil147) September 15, 2019