Steve Davis has an ominous warning for the snooker world: Ronnie O’Sullivan can carry on winning major titles in his 50s.
At 42, the five-time world champion is in ominous form, having already won the English Open, Shanghai Masters and UK Championship since October.
He could become the first to win a title over the age of 50. He might relish the challenge of holding back the tide of age and the prospect of beating the young kids when he is 50.Steve Davis on Ronnie O’Sullivan
He will be looking to defend his Dafabet Masters title – and win the tournament for an eighth time – when it cues off at Alexandra Palace tomorrow.
Snooker legend Davis knows all about playing beyond 50, the 60-year-old having finally packed away his cue in 2016 after an illustrious career.
But Davis believes O’Sullivan is still improving, and can carry on winning for another decade.
“He could become the first to win a title over the age of 50,” said Davis. “He might relish the challenge of holding back the tide of age and the prospect of beating the young kids when he is 50.
“I was hanging on in the top 16 at 50, but not threatening ranking events. That challenge might appeal to him.”
The key is O’Sullivan’s hunger for the game. Already he has talked about missing this year’s World Championship and UK Championship, the latter for the chance to appear in TV reality show ‘I’m A Celebrity…’
While he needs little motivation to turn up at the Masters – he plays Marco Fu on Tuesday in his opening game – O’Sullivan is happy to explore other career options.
But six-time world champion Davis – who won the Masters three times – believes O’Sullivan is “becoming the ultimate player” and the man to beat.
“He’s an even more complete, mature player than he has been in the past,” said Davis. “It’s astonishing to think that even into his 40s, he’s still the most feared player. He’s got a B game which can win events, and very few players can do that.
“Going into any event, the other players are fearful of what Ronnie can achieve when he’s at the top of his game, and they know they have to produce their best standard.
“Ronnie is effectively becoming the ultimate player and he doesn’t appear to suffer from pressure or tension in his game.
“Throughout his career he has had blips along the way, but I don’t think his game as a snooker player, or his mind as a snooker player, has ever stopped improving.
“When you see him around the table he is almost impervious to damage. He’s got such a good temperament and doesn’t seem so emotional out in the arena.”
World No 1 Mark Selby opens up the Masters tomorrow against Welshman Mark Williams, while Sheffield-based Ding Junhui plays Ryan Day on Monday.