I know O’Sullivan can be extremely polarizing at times. I myself have already criticized his behavior or his statements. But there can be no doubt about one thing: with his seventh triumph in a billiards world championship, he has finally catapulted himself into another sphere. What he has achieved in his long career, no one has ever done.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of discussions of who’s the best of all time. Different times, different circumstances, different people; it seems unfair to me to force it into a ranking. But the numbers speak for themselves.
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Ronnie O’Sullivan has surpassed or at least equaled all relevant records set by Stephen Hendry. It seemed impossible ten or fifteen years ago. And there is no doubt that there will be more with O’Sullivan. He is clearly leading there.
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Of course, Stephen Hendry had his best days when there were fewer tournaments than today. But Hendry also celebrated his achievements at a time when there was less competition. The powerful breadth we have today did not exist then. Hendry himself did not hide the fact that for him the tournaments began only in the quarter-finals. In the two previous rounds (then the first 16 only entered the last 32 round) he really couldn’t lose at all.
But what speaks most of Ronnie O’Sullivan is his longevity. He has been at the top for 30 years now and there is no end in sight. Stephen Hendry’s career (at least at the top of the world) was noticeably shorter.
O’Sullivan himself maliciously said after his seventh World Cup triumph that he would like to share the record with Hendry for a year. And no one can deny that title number eight is a more than realistic prospect.
With the world championship, the season is now over, a season with many surprises, but also with constants. So it’s time to take a deep breath (except the ones with the Q School on the chest). I can’t wait for the new season to arrive. Unfortunately, as there are no tournaments to play in China yet, it will take until the European Masters in August in Fürth for things to really settle down.
A warm greeting, even if with deep dark circles
Yours, Rolf Kalb
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