Ronnie O’Sullivan goes into this year’s World Championship as the defending champion after winning his sixth crown at the Crucible in 2020.
That victory put O’Sullivan level with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon for world title wins and just one short of Stephen Hendry who holds the record with seven. The Rocket will have the record in his sights when he cues off in the tournament next month.
O’Sullivan is now 45 years old, but his game is showing no signs of being in decline. He became the second-oldest winner of the World Championship when he lifted the trophy last year, beating Kyren Wilson in the final 18-8 in a dominant display.
Since that win in Sheffield, the Rocket has reached four ranking events finals but has finished the runner-up in each of those, including the Players Championship where John Higgins beat him 10-3. Along with Higgins and Mark Williams, the class of 92 remain at the top of the sport and are all strong contenders in the 2021 World Championship. The defending champion is second-best in betting for the tournament.
Meanwhile, O’Sullivan is sure to be a popular choice again amongst sports bettors from all over the world, from the best and safest sites for arabic betting on the championship, to fans from the UK and the United States. However, despite his widespread popularity, O’Sullivan does have stiff competition in the form of Judd Trump who is ahead of him in the betting.
The world number one has had another excellent season himself with four rankings wins, his latest success coming in the German Masters. He is a worthy favourite to win his second world crown this year. Trump will be in the opposite half of the draw to O’Sullivan as they are the top two seeds in 2021.
It is also worth looking out for price boosts on O’Sullivan the closer we get to the start of the tournament at the Crucible. The best bookmakers tend to increase their odds around this time, especially those who feel the Rocket will struggle to match Hendry’s record this year.
The Rocket was nominated for the Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2020 in recognition of his achievement in the sport. Surprisingly, it is the first time O’Sullivan had made the list through his illustrious career.
Davis is the only snooker player in history to win the SPOTY award. His success came in 1988. Alex Higgins was runner-up in 1982, while Hendry finished second in 1990 in a period where snooker was at the height of its popularity due to regular terrestrial coverage.
Although he missed out on the podium at the award ceremony in 2020, victory at the Crucible this year could help O’Sullivan land the top prize. A seventh world championship would certainly grab all the headlines in the world of sport and his achievement would be hard to ignore at his age.
The world number two has been a professional since 1992 and he has no plans to retire any time soon, so he may even eclipse Hendry’s record before he hangs up his cue. He now does some punditry work for Eurosport and handpicks the tournaments he enters on what is a busy snooker calendar this season. This flexibility may be the secret to his longevity as he has not burnt out before the World Snooker Championship at the end of the campaign.
One of the reasons O’Sullivan has been such a fan favourite over his career has been his entertaining style of play. The Rocket, as his nickname suggests, does not hang around at the table. He plays an attacking brand of snooker which the crowd love to see.
O’Sullivan remains the biggest name in his sport. He is the box office attraction wherever he plays around the world. He also still has that fear factor which many of his opponents struggle with. There are probably only a handful of opponents in the game today who don’t get overwhelmed with the occasion of playing the man from Essex. It will be interesting to see how long O’Sullivan can remain at the top of his sport. He may decide to play on until he reaches his 50s, as Davis and White did. Given how he often chases perfection, it all depends on how well his game holds up over the next few years against the younger players.