Ronnie O'Sullivan has claimed that there are two divisions at the top of snooker's elite and identified the big-name players who fit in each category.
The 45-year-old, who has six world titles to his name, had himself in the second division, along with fellow legends John Higgins and Mark Williams, while he said Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson were in the top tier.
The Rocket compared himself, Higgins and Williams to tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in terms of still being able to compete at the top level despite no longer being in their prime years.
UK Championship LIVE - Higgins back in action after O'Sullivan win
- 'A dangerous thing' - O'Sullivan 'baffled' by 'egos' of snooker next gen
- 'Snooker became a bit toxic' - O'Sullivan on 'car crash' politics in sport
- 'It's a little secret' - O'Sullivan talks pool helping his snooker and Las Vegas
"I would probably narrow it down into maybe two divisions now," O'Sullivan told Eurosport in a special extended interview ahead of the English Open.
"I think you'd have to say Selby, Trump and possibly Robertson, you could say that they are the three strongest players. I think outside of that, then you put me, John Higgins and Mark Williams, just because of the age.
"Because at my age now, if I win a tournament, or at least put my heart and soul into it, it takes me three or four days just to sort of recover again to be able to go again. Whereas maybe seven, eight years ago I could win the World Championship and then wake up the next day and think, 'I could do that again'.
"You know, and as you get older, you don't have the powers of concentration or sustainability. So I think those three are in their prime and once you hit 43, 44 it gets a lot harder.
We've kind of been okay, because we came from that special era where, like Federer and Nadal, 70% is still good enough to compete.
O’Sullivan picks his two favourite athletes of all time
"I think that is what is getting us by at the moment, but I don't know how much longer that can go on for.
"So I think I would probably break that down into two divisions: Selby, Trump, Robertson - just because of their age, not because of their ability to play the game, but just that they're able to concentrate and recover one match after another a lot better than say, me, Williams or Higgins would."
O'Sullivan also had his say on the tournaments that really matter to him and made it abundantly clear that the World Championship remains the pinnacle and worth "five mediocre events" in his mind.
"The Triple Crowns, they are the three big tournaments, that is where the most pressure is. That is where the top players usually thrive and they never change, a bit like the Masters [golf], the four majors, you can always judge Jack Nicklaus with Tiger Woods because of the amount of majors.
Judd would swap - I know he would swap - with Selby because the World Championship is the one that everybody wants to win.
"I would probably take one world title than win five mediocre events because the world is the one."
- English Open 2021: How to watch the second Home Nations Series event
- Vafaei destroys O'Sullivan with five-star whitewash
- WATCH: O’Sullivan sends balls flying round table in crazy break-off
On Monday Hossein 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.
'Messi can maybe make the game look that easy' - O'Sullivan wowed by Higgins
- - -
Stream the English Open live and on demand on discovery+
'He's too good' - O'Sullivan offers help 'free of charge' to beaten White
'Anybody hurt?' - O'Sullivan smashes cue ball to scatter reds