Ronnie O’Sullivan promises ‘carnage’ in Crucible opener with David Gilbert

Laila Rouass responds to question about Ronnie O'Sullivan split

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Ronnie O’Sullivan is predicting “carnage” in the first round of the Betfred World Championship. The Rocket gets his Crucible campaign under way against ranking-event winner David Gilbert this afternoon in Sheffield. 

Six-time champion and world No 1 O’Sullivan, 46, is bidding to equal Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven crowns. But surveying a clutch of competitive qualifiers going up against the seeds O’Sullivan said: “The first round here could be like the first corner in a Formula One race – carnage. 

“And I have to survive it. There are some unbelievable qualifiers that have come through, and I think there will be a lot of seeds falling by the wayside.” 

Meanwhile O’Sullivan insists Hendry is the only player that gets him – and that the pair are snooker’s ‘special ones’. The Rocket gets under way today at the Crucible in Sheffield bidding for a record-equalling seventh crown.

It remains Scot Hendry’s proudest achievement, and the 53-year-old has already seen world No 1 O’Sullivan overtake most of the marks he set. The argument continues to rage over who is the greatest – but if O’Sullivan lifts the trophy this year that will settle the debate for many given his other accolades. 

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And he says the experience of being the best over such a long period means there is an almost unspoken understanding with Hendry, who returned to the tour as a player two years ago. 

O’Sullivan said: “There is a special bond between me and Stephen. When you have done it on the biggest stages over so many years, very few players know what it’s like to be that successful. You get players come along who have one, two, three good years. But then they go missing, get drawn into the pack and aren’t so dominant. 

“Stephen and I were dominant for decades. Within that there are times when your game dips and challengers emerge. But that is the test of a true champion. It is not easy, being at the top like that for so long. It requires talent, courage, determination and bottle. 

“Even John Higgins and Mark Williams, while great, great players, haven’t achieved half of what Stephen and I have. We might not be the best mates or the closest in that sense, but there is respect, and we both know we have qualities that no other snooker players and not many sportspeople possess. 

“If you asked Mark Williams ‘what’s it like winning three world titles’ he would rightly say ‘it’s very tough’. And he is a great player. So imagine how hard it is to win six or seven? Stephen and I know it takes a special sort of player to be able to do that. 

“For a lot of people in the game and watching on it would mean a lot if I equalled his record. And it might put a few questions to bed. I think Stephen would really like to keep that record of seven – and maybe I am the least bothered out of anyone! Having said that…I wouldn’t say no.” 

Something new for O’Sullivan this year is a shop bearing his name in the popular Meadowhall mall in the Steel City selling leisure wear, running kit and snooker gear. He said: “I will show my face there unannounced during the World Championship, although I’m not sure my maths is up to the checkout till!” 

**The Ronnie O’Sullivan Shop is open in the Meadowhall Shopping Centre until the end of May**

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