Ronnie O'Sullivan has explained why he is so 'baffled' by the next generation of snooker players arriving in the sport, and believes a lot of the issues stem from ego and a false sense of self-belief.
The 45-year-old, who has six world titles to his name, has long since doubted the credentials of the younger stars emerging without having much experience in the amateur or youth ranks before hitting the professional circuit.
O'Sullivan has admitted that he has not been overly impressed with the crop coming through and has observed that "they probably believe in themselves a bit too much for how good they are".
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"There are a lot of good players, but I think the problem with snooker now is the issue that I see with a lot of players," O'Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open.
"They come in, they haven't really had an amateur or junior background and they turn professional and the ego kicks in: 'I'm a professional playing Mark Williams in the first round', and they're not really that good.
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"With some of these guys, they just turn up now because it's open to anybody, really. They get peppered for the whole year and it's very hard to then kind of like squash that ego.
"[Looking back] I think when you're a kid, week-in, week-out, playing pro-ams, you might be in one week and you got beat the next two or three weeks and your ego was kept in check because you had a respect for the game and the players and the level to play at.
Some of the people I see on the tour, I wonder how they actually got there. Where do they find them, you know?
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"They have no experience at amateur or junior level in some instances... honestly, I don't know. It baffles me. That's one of the reasons I don't watch it.
"I do watch a lot of snooker but I don't watch the modern day snooker because I think years ago, when you were a pro, you had earned the right to be a pro and basically had earned your stripes. Whereas now it's just open to anybody. So yeah, it's a tricky one. It is what it is.
"I think me, [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins, we're already past our best, you know, physically, mentally, we're not the players we probably were six, seven, eight, 10, 15 years ago, there's no chance.
"But what we do have is the experience, the pedigree, the ability to have faith in our ability; we haven't come from this privileged sort of background, we've kind of had to go through the junior, the amateur circuit, we've had to be beaten, our egos put into place.
"So that kind of creates a character for a player, if you like, and the character that Williams and Higgins have got has come from a culmination of putting themselves through the hard yards.
"Today, there are a lot of players that are really good players, but they haven't got that foundation, they haven't gone through those stages to make them a player that's going to be around for a long time.
They are very inexperienced, they probably believe in themselves a bit too much for how good they are, and that can be a dangerous thing.
"I'd rather be a player that thinks he's not as good as he actually is, whereas on the tour now you get a lot of players that think they're better than they actually are, and that for me is the problem. Because that is a dangerous way of thinking, and you can only get true character if you have experienced all levels of the game and appreciate it.
"So in many ways, I think Higgins and Williams and me are around just because of that pedigree, not because we're the best or we're the youngest or the fittest, just that we've got a bit more to fall back on in many ways."
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O’Sullivan begins his English Open campaign on Monday November 1 against David Lilley at 19:00 after a shock defeat to Hossein Vafaei at the German Masters.
Vafaei compiled breaks of 52, 50, 81, 64 and a magical 141 as the world number 60 stunned six-time world champion O'Sullivan 5-0 in the German Masters in Cannock in only 54 minutes. The last 32 qualify for the final stages of the German Masters, with the Tempodrom in Berlin staging the tournament between 26-30 January 2022.
Apart from breaking down among the balls in the second frame, O'Sullivan did little or nothing wrong as the inspired world number 60 raced to 4-0 clear in under an hour.
That became a 5-0 victory quickly after the mid-session interval with the world number three only making 24 after potting a red off the break-off shot – going for broke with an ultra-aggressive opening play – in throwing caution to the wind before Vafaei pounced with another lovely knock of 64 to end any hopes of a recovery by the record 37-times ranking event winner.
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