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Robertson: O'Sullivan can still equal Hendry's world record haul

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Neil Robertson and Ronnie O'Sullivan

Image credit: Eurosport

ByDesmond Kane
12/05/2020 at 10:49 | Updated 12/05/2020 at 12:20

Ronnie O'Sullivan can still reach Stephen Hendry's record Crucible haul of seven if he wants it badly enough, according to 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.

Australia's greatest player believes O'Sullivan - world champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 - has the ability to add to his total of five victories despite last winning snooker's ultimate event seven years ago with an 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins.

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Hendry's Crucible record is arguably the last major one O'Sullivan has yet to topple having lifted seven Masters and seven UK titles, compiling over 1,000 centuries and joining Hendry on 36 career ranking event wins.

O'Sullivan last reached the world final when he lost 18-14 to Mark Selby in 2014, but has suffered several surprising defeats in recent times including a 10-8 defeat to amateur qualifier James Cahill in the first round a year ago, one of the biggest shocks of all time.

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He has twice lost in the quarter-finals over the past five years being unseated by Stuart Bingham in 2015 - a year where he removed his shoes during a first-round win over Craig Steadman - and Ding Junhui in 2017.

There was also the infamous incident with Ali Carter in a second-round defeat in 2018 where both players bumped into each other at the table.

"Yeah for sure Ronnie could win seven. It all depends on his head," Robertson told Eurosport. "Last year was one of the strangest things I've ever seen.

"Ever since he lost to Selby in the final, every year since has been really strange. He lost to Barry Hawkins (second round in 2016) which was an unbelievable match.

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"A lot is expected of him. Not so much from the crowd. He just seems to attract a lot more attention from people away from the table. Nothing bad or anything, it's just he is the superstar of the game so he has to deal with a lot of that.

"He was quite open and honest about how he has approached this season. He has been quite attacking and playing to enjoy it rather than not really enjoying it at all."

O'Sullivan has vowed to commit to a full schedule over the next two years. "I do think for the next two years I might just focus and play in every event I can possibly play in," he said on Instagram. "Give it one last shot and see if I can get my game to a level where I’m confident of winning."

O'Sullivan's five-year Crucible record

  • 2019 Lost 10-8 James Cahill (first round)
  • 2018 Lost 13-9 Ali Carter (second round)
  • 2017 Lost 13-10 Ding Junhui (quarter-finals)
  • 2016 Lost 13-12 Barry Hawkins (second round)
  • 2015 Lost 13-9 Stuart Bingham (quarter-finals)

History suggests O'Sullivan will struggle to land even one more world title at the age of 44 at an event he admits he dislikes due to the elongated and exhaustive nature of it over 17 days in Sheffield. Six-times world champion Ray Reardon remains the oldest winner of the Crucible era aged 45 and 203 days in 1978.

This year's rescheduled event is due to begin on July 31 and is likely to be played to behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic if it goes ahead. O'Sullivan is ranked 18 on the game's one-year list. His last ranking event victory came in March 2019 when he beat Robertson 13-11 in the Tour Championship final in Llandudno.

Robertson feels O'Sullivan's desire is the key to any future success.

"He has still played to a decent standard, but not really to the levels he reached over the previous two seasons when he won around 80 percent of all the tournaments he played in," said Robertson.

"Which was an insane record. It all depends on what his mindset is, and what he wants out it. He has said he plans to give it a real good go.

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"For the game, it would obviously be brilliant if he wants to compete again at most of the events. That would be fantastic even though it would lessen mine and everybody else's chances of winning events including Ronnie's too.

"It will be a fantastic challenge to see Ronnie playing more that we should all welcome."

Desmond Kane

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