I must confess that, over the years, I have fallen out of love with snooker. When I was younger I absolutely loved watching it, especially the Masters – according to my Dad, when I was a baby I was fixated with the colour green so we would always watch cricket, football, rugby and snooker together! But, as names like Hendry, Davis, White and Parrot disappeared from the sport, I gradually stopped following it to the point where I would always change channel if the snooker came on. I don’t know why – the game itself hasn’t changed that much – but I just did. The self-imposed exile of Ronnie O’Sullivan didn’t help – he was and is such a fantastic player to watch and is definitely a maverick of the sport. So when he decided he was going to pick and choose when he played I think I must have subconsciously decided that I couldn’t watch it anymore.
Over the last week or so the 2014 of the edition of the Masters tournament has been taking place at Alexandra Palace. Being the keen sports fan I am, I have been keeping a very loose eye over the tournament but haven’t really followed it with much interest. I was just browsing through the BBC Sport website earlier today, trying not to cry over the fact that the England cricket team had suffered one of their most humiliating losses so far in their tour of Australia, to see a video entitled: “Ronnie O’Sullivan playing snooker ‘from the gods.’” If it had been any other player I probably wouldn’t have watched the video but because it was O’Sullivan I thought I’d have a quick glance. When I saw it was nearly 8 minutes long I almost closed the tab but having seen his first shot – a seemingly impossible pot – I decided to carry on. It was the best decision I have made this year (ok, so we’re not even a month in, but you see what I mean!).
What followed was what can only be described as a work of art. After some initial fortune with a couple of early pots, O’Sullivan went on to produce the best snooker I have ever seen. He was a man possessed – if ever there was a perfect example of someone being ‘in the zone’ it was him for those 8 minutes. Everything he did seemed to end up exactly where he wanted it to. Snooker players often take a lot of time lining up each shot, working out where they need to position themselves, but there was no need for that here. O’Sullivan didn’t need to think – that would have just disrupted his mental flow. I have never seen a snooker referee move so quick – as soon as he had replaced a ball on the table O’Sullivan was playing his next shot, as though he were afraid that this spell could end at any moment. In the end, O’Sullivan finished with a break of 134, just 13 off the maximum, to lead by 4-0.
Not long after the match was over, O’Sullivan having won 6-0. His opponent, Ricky Walden, simply stood no chance. Not because he’s a bad player, but just because the greatest ever snooker player was at his best. There has been no stopping this season – he has now notched up 29 century breaks and has plenty of time to add more. In his career, he now has 724 century breaks, with 11 maximums, meaning he’s only 30 behind Stephen Hendry in the all-time list. He has been World Champion on 5 separate occasions, including the last two years, and has won 52 major tournament. The guy is insane and yet is still extremely modest, albeit irritatingly so at times. But, for me, O’Sullivan is the man who got me interested in snooker once again.
If you have 8 minutes to spare, watch this. Even if you hate snooker, the skill exhibited here is truly astounding: