WHO IS THE GREATEST SNOOKER IN HISTORY? OPTIONS TWO: RONNIE O’SULLIVAN AND STEPHEN HENDRY
In late August and early September, two events took place, which resumed the dispute over the greatest snooker of all time. First, Ronnie O’Sullivan became a world champion for the sixth time. In the semifinals, the rocket dealt with Mark Selby, and in the decisive match destroyed Kyren Wilson. Second, Ronnie’s main rival for the GOAT title, Stephen Hendry, announced the resumption of his career. The 51-year-old Scot has been given a two-year wild card and will compete in professional tournaments for the first time since 2012.
Hendry holds the World Cup record. From 1990 to 1999, he won the main tournament seven times and even got the nickname King Crucible. Not long ago, his achievement seemed unshakable – John Higgins slowed down, Judd Trump is unlikely to catch up with Stephen, and Ronnie O’Sullivan has failed in recent years, even if he’s been shining all season. After the Rockets’ relegation in the first round against amateur James Cahill in 2019, even a sixth World Cup victory seemed an elusive achievement, let alone a seventh.
Last season, however, O’Sullivan had arguably the greatest tournament of his career: on the way to the final was the stars mark Williams and Dean Junhu, in the decider, broke the resistance of his most difficult opponent Mark Selby and turned the final into a formality – a victory over the exhausted Wilson with a score of 18:8 turned out to be elementary for Ronnie elementary. After such a performance it became obvious: Ronnie can not only catch up, but also overtake Hendry if he still five years remains at the same level.
Steven himself argues that the resumption of his career has nothing to do with achieving a principled competitor, and does not set high goals in the status of a professional: “I wanted to feel competitive snooker again. I don’t have a goal to stop Ronnie. There are a lot of other great players who are fighting him and if he breaks my record, it will be fair.” The debate over whether O’Sullivan will take seven World Cups is part of a larger debate about who is the greatest snooker player of all time.
In tennis, similar discussions boil down to the Big Three, here on symbolic status claim two: O’Sullivan and Hendry. Higgins is celebrated for his stability and achievements, but John falls short of the scale of Ronnie and Stephen. Steve Davis, despite six world titles, is inferior to Rocket and Iceman in other achievements and charisma. Ray Riordan with six World Cup wins is also rarely taken into account – snooker in the 1970s, when Dracula dominated, was too different from the modern one. Mark Selby or Judd Trump may eventually intervene in the debate, but they haven’t even come close to the records of major legends.
In fact, most experts were confident of O’Sullivan’s superiority over Hendry even before the 2020 World Cup. “Stephen took the game to a new level, but then Ronnie came and did it again,” said Jimmy White, who lost to Iceman four times in the World Cup finals. – He has made more than all the highs, he has more than 1000 hundred, he plays incredibly positions. Talking about these two is like comparing Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. It is clear that they are the main winners in sports. In the 1990s, Hendry didn’t have many strong competitors, and it was easier to dominate. Then all of a sudden there were a lot of great players, but Ronnie still dominated, so I think he’s the greatest. That’s what Stephen himself recognizes.”