LAUGHTER was the first reaction when Ronnie O’Sullivan found out via social media he would head to the Crucible this week as world No1.
While Mark Selby is the defending world snooker champion and will be in action on Saturday’s opening day, it is the Rocket who sits top of the rankings.
World No1 Ronnie O’Sullivan is aiming to win a record seventh world title[/caption]
Yet despite O’Sullivan chasing a seventh world title to equal Stephen Hendry’s record haul, he still does not consider himself the man to beat over 17 days in Sheffield.
Instead, it is Australian Neil Robertson — winner of four titles this season, including the Masters — who O’Sullivan thinks is playing some of the best snooker ever seen in the sport’s history.
And should the pair lock horns in what would be a mouth-watering semi-final, then the Essex potter knows making the final for an eighth time would rank among his greatest feats.
O’Sullivan, 46, was in a relaxed mood when he sat down with SunSport ahead of this year’s World Snooker Championship.
BAIZE OF GLORY
Baring my bum set Ronnie O’Sullivan on way to stardom, reveals Barry Hearn
Paddy Power betting offer: Get £40 in FREE BETS when you sign up and stake £10
He revealed: “I was a bit shocked when someone texted me about being world No 1. I thought they were winding me up. They sent me a picture that somebody had put it on Twitter.
“I just started laughing. I thought it was quite funny.
“It was a bit like winning the world title in 2013 after taking a year out. I thought, ‘How did that happen?’
“But I’ll be honest with you, they’re probably the two best achievements given the circumstances in my career.
Most read in Sport
Chelsea & Man City fans brawl in Madrid in shocking scenes before CL ties
Paul reveals he suffered 'CAREER-ENDING injury' in drunken punch machine fail
DEAL ME OUT
Man Utd's £500k-a-week Paul Pogba offer 'causes fury in dressing room'
Benzema asks James to swaps shirts with Real Madrid hero impressed by Chelsea star
IN THE HAG
Man Utd 'agree four-year deal' with Ten Hag and will announce new boss NEXT WEEK
Ten Hag facing Man Utd transfer blow with target 'intensifying talks' with Juve
“Am I the best player in the world? No, no, definitely not.
“Neil Robertson is by far the most consistent player, his strike-rate is pretty incredible really. Virtually every tournament he’s entered, he has either won or got to the final.
“Listen, he’s the man to beat. I enjoy the challenge. I’d relish the chance of having a go at him in Sheffield at the World Championship.
“If I could beat him at some point, it’d probably go down as the best victory in my snooker career.
“At the moment he’s playing some unbelievable snooker. He’s probably the best player that I’ve ever played.
“If you just brought everybody’s game at their peak and put them in one tournament — say Hendry, Davis, me, Higgins, Williams, Robertson, Selby, Trump or Ding — I’d say his game at the moment is probably as good as anyone has ever played.”
O’Sullivan, who is a Discovery Eurosport expert, was defeated in the second round by Anthony McGill 12 months ago, even though he had won a sixth world title in August 2020.
But the Rocket has told his doubters that he possesses the “stamina and endurance to keep churning it out” — even as he creeps closer to 50.
JOIN SUN VEGAS: GET A FREE £10 BONUS WITH 100s OF GAMES TO PLAY AND NO DEPOSIT REQUIRED (Ts&Cs apply)
Those expecting him to hang up his cue any time soon will have to wait as he will continue for as long as his daughter Lily, 16, remains in education.
He added: “Whether my game is good enough to win, that’s another thing.
“You’ve got to be a bit realistic. I’ve only won three titles in three seasons now. It isn’t a great strike-rate.
“The snooker Gods, I always say, give you what you deserve and if I deserve to be world champion, I will be.
“I want to get at least three world championships out of myself because that would mean my daughter would finish her school education.
“I thought I needed some sort of motivation to keep playing. It’s like we’re going to do it together.
“She’s going to finish her schooling — she is doing her GCSEs — and I’ll finish my snooker. I’m still committed to seeing that through.
Read More on The Sun
Ukraine snatches Putin’s pal ‘Prince of Darkness’ & offers trade for POWs
‘not today babe’
Rylan in shock feud with I’m A Celeb star as she tells him to ‘get real!’
“She can come to Sheffield if she wants but she’s more interested in going out, horse riding, enjoying spending time with friends and revising.
“Every time I ring her she is revising. I’m like, ‘You can bring your school work with you and revise in the hotel’. We shall see.”
- WATCH Ronnie O’Sullivan in action at the 2022 World Championship live on discovery+ and Eurosport from Saturday.
O’Sullivan will be looking to make amends for his second-round exit last year[/caption]