Ronnie O'Sullivan: Snooker's greatest ever?


Ronnie O'Sullivan's 10-4 win over Mark Selby on Sunday secured his fifth Masters title. Is he now officially snooker's greatest ever player?

Five World Championships, four UK Championships and 25 ranking tournaments in all - Ronnie O'Sullivan's trophy cabinet could fill the biggest of Victorian mansions.

And now you can add a fifth Masters title to the list, after Rocket Ronnie stormed to a 10-4 win over Mark Selby in Sunday's final at Alexandra Palace.

Is there no limit to what O'Sullivan can achieve...?

The signs look ominous for the rest of the field - especially when you consider the fact that 38-year-old O'Sullivan dropped just seven frames en route to a memorable Masters title. His long potting was flawless, while his safety play almost unbreakable.

But, most of the time, the Rocket didn't even have to use his vast array of weapons. He just did the simple things - and he did them brilliantly. When asked whether he was unplayable after his 6-0 win over Ricky Walden in the quarter-final, he simply replied that his safety and scoring were "okay." There's a man with high standards for you.

O'Sullivan did admit that he was playing with confidence, though, and some of his break-building was nothing short of breathtaking. But it's nothing new as far as the Rocket is concerned, is it?

The 38-year-old has been leap years above the rest of the field for quite some time now - and that's including the brilliant contenders that are heading the World Rankings: the Selbys, the Neil Robertsons, the Ding Junhuis.

That's because, quite simply, when he wants to be, O'Sullivan is nothing short of magical. And nowadays he wants to be quite often.

Indeed, it is almost unanimously accepted amongst snooker fans that the Rocket is now the greatest player ever to grace the game.

Many have championed the theory for years, while others have simply concluded that he is the game's greatest natural talent - but not best all-round player. Yet with the consistent brilliance O'Sullivan has produced in his thirties, there is less and less doubt that the Rocket is the best player to ever grace a snooker table.

Some fans during their week at the Masters remarked at how athletic O'Sullivan made the game look - despite the stop, start nature of the sport. Others were simply dumbfounded by some of his positional shots, while many just gasped with awe at his exquisite potting ability.

And yet the most remarkable thing about all of this is O'Sullivan's age. At 38, the Rocket hasn't lost its engine. Far from looking like a tired, waning force, O'Sullivan is producing some of the best snooker of his whole career - and he is doing it at all of snooker's biggest events, hardly giving anyone else a sniff.

Next up on Ronnie's road to immortal glory is the Crucible Theatre in April, where O'Sullivan will bid for his third consecutive World Championship. You'd be brave to bet against him - and you'd be daft not to appreciate his majestic ability with a snooker cue.

The only question is perhaps how long O'Sullivan can keep this mastery up. But with his tactical approach to the tour, his wise outlook on his health and fitness - and his visible motivation to keep proving himself as the world's finest player, the Rocket may last a good few years yet.

"I have set myself a target of winning the world title when I'm in my 40s. Tom Watson nearly won the Open at 59," O'Sullivan told reporters after Sunday's win.

"The way I've played in the last two years is how I wanted to play for the previous 18. Better late than never, I suppose."