Ronnie O’Sullivan has taken snooker to "a new level" since turning professional in 1992, according to seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry.
Hendry heaped praise on his old foe after watching the record 38-time ranking event winner complete a 13-5 triumph in the quarter-finals against Stephen Maguire on Wednesday morning, finishing off in style with breaks of 71 and 126 having led 11-5 overnight.
O'Sullivan has overtaken Hendry as the most prolific winner in Crucible history – completing a 72nd win from 95 matches with the Scotsman on 70 from 90 – in reaching the celebrated one-table set-up for a 13th time at the sport's blue-chip event.
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The world No. 1 will face John Higgins or Jack Lisowski in the semi-finals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday knowing two more victories at the tournament will see him draw level with Hendry on seven world titles.
"It would be an honour for me to share seven with him, it really would because he's taken snooker to a new level," said Hendry, winner of the sport's biggest event in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1999.
"That last frame this morning, you can't play snooker better than that.
"He’s just supreme in all departments. He looks focused... he’s scoring when he gets in, it’s going to be very hard to beat him on that form."
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O'Sullivan believes Hendry set the standard for others to chase after he drew level with Steve Davis by winning the title for a sixth time in 2020.
"We all aspire to be like Stephen," he said. "He set the benchmark for everybody. Steve Davis did that, but he took it to another level."
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O'Sullivan could face Higgins in the semi-finals while Mark Williams, who is level at 8-8 with former Masters holder Yan Bingtao in his quarter-final, is in contention to reach the last four, 30 years after the 'Class of '92' trio turned professional.
"We are trying to be like Stephen. I'm just enjoying competing," said O'Sullivan. "Stephen is an all-time legend for me, the greatest player who was our Tiger Woods of snooker.
"Me and John and Williams have come along and done well, but when he was flying in the 1980s and 1990s, he was a superstar. We're not superstars when there are three of you.
"When there is one man dominating sport like Tiger Woods did, it is a different level."
Despite toiling with tip problems throughout the first two sessions against Maguire on Tuesday, O'Sullivan still managed to roll in breaks of 123, 94, 73, 70, 69, 64, 55 and 54 to continue his bid to add his tournament wins in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2020.
"It is very tense in the two-table set-up, but when it goes to the one table you can relax a bit more," said O'Sullivan. "You get the venue to yourself. I'm excited to still be in the tournament and excited to get to the one table."
The Essex professional is confident his tip will be in good working order for the best-of-33 frame semi-finals.
"It really wasn't great and I had to get that done," he said. "Normally, I've got a little bit of tip overhanging, but this time I had to take it down because there was a chunk out of it.
"I can't see the tip, but the more I play with it, the more I get used to it and it will be fine."
O'Sullivan feels pre-tournament favourite Neil Robertson's 13-12 defeat to Jack Lisowski in the last 16 proves how difficult the game's biggest tournament can be.
Robertson lifted the world title in 2010, but has not reached the semi-finals in Sheffield since 2014.
"I think this venue is hard. You look at Neil Robertson, he's a fantastic player, unbelievable and even he found it difficult out there," he said, speaking to the BBC.
"I just think it is how you handle the occasion and the venue."
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O'Sullivan v Hendry: How key records compare
- Ranking title wins: 38-36
- World titles 6-7
- UK titles: 7-5
- Masters titles: 7-6
- Crucible match wins: 72-70
- Crucible win percentage: 75.79%-77.78%
- Career win percentage: 74.7%-68.54%
- Crucible centuries: 191-127
- Career centuries: 1161-776
- Crucible 147s: 3-3
- Career 147s: 15-11
- Years as World No. 1: 6-9
- Age winning first ranking title: 17 (1993 UK Championship) – 18 (1987 Grand Prix)
- Age winning first world title: 25 (2001 World Championship) – 21 (1990 World Championship)
- Age winning last ranking title: 46 (2021 World Grand Prix) – 36 (2005 Malta Cup)
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