His last major run was to the finals in 2014, where he famously lost to Mark Selby. Since then, he hasn’t made it past the quarter-finals. This year he was eliminated by an amateur in the first round. Will O’Sullivan lift the coveted prize once again? Or for historical purposes: 3 times again?
For me personally, in the past few years O’Sullivan hasn’t been a favourite of mine going into World Championship tournaments. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge O’Sullivan fan and he is always a favourite of mine going into literally any other tournament; but for the World Championship…not quite.
Understandably, he is always the bookies favourites going into the World’s and other tournaments and this will continue to be the case until he retires, as he will always be ‘the guy’ to beat. But how come his track record hasn’t been as successful in recent years? I think it comes down partly to O’Sullivan and also a little bit to the tour as well.
One thing that it comes to is consistency. O’Sullivan isn’t the most consistent player out there. When it comes to World Championships, as other players are frequent to point out, it’s all about which O’Sullivan turns up on the day. Often, he does extremely well in the first couple rounds of the World’s then his play does a complete U-turn in the next round. This was evident in 2015-18. Even in the 2018 Masters, where he whitewashed Marco Fu 6-0 in the first round, then lost 6-1 to Mark Allen in the next round was a prime example of this.
A lot say that it comes down to his outside interests, but I don’t think this is the case. I mean, the guy took a whole year off between World Championships and came back to win it the following year. I also think that the outside interests help to keep O’Sullivan interested in the game and avoid the dangers of over-practicing/burning out.
Also, there are more tournaments being introduced into the circuit as the years roll on. Almost all of these represent the shorter format matches which better suit O’Sullivan, his playstyle and also his patience levels. By playing in more tournaments with this kind of format, it makes it difficult to focus on the longer matches that come with the World Championship.
So, the question as to if O’Sullivan will lift the World’s again. I think it will happen. Whether it will happen 3 more times, that’s tricky to say. But I think it will happen at least once. Even though he has spells where it seems like he plays uncharacteristically, there’s no decline in his game in any areas.
If Mark Williams and John Higgins can win World titles and make consecutive finals then it’s only a matter of time before O’Sullivan will as well. And even though he says that titles don’t mean that much to him anymore, I promise you winning at least one more World’s will be driving him forward.