Snooker: Top stars ‘flatter to deceive’ at Crucible

Ronnie O'Sullivan play a shot watched by Judd Trump, during the Betfair World Championships at the Crucible, Sheffield. PA picture

Ronnie O'Sullivan play a shot watched by Judd Trump, during the Betfair World Championships at the Crucible, Sheffield. PA picture

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Stephen Hendry has won more titles that anyone in the professional game – and so his opinion counts for a lot.

The seven-time Crucible champion, now carving a career for himself as BBC pundit, has been casting a close eye over this year’s Betfair.com World Championship here in Sheffield.

Mostly from the commentary box and, having seen the action from close quarters, the Scot has bemoaned the fact no player has yet been good enough challenge Ronnie O’Sullivan’s dominance.

In fact, the most successful player to have picked up a cue is adamant the ‘Rocket’s’ rivals are handing him the title on a plate.

“It’s up to the other players to try and get to his level,” said Hendry.

“As Ronnie as said himself, there’s been a different winner of every ranking tournament and no one has taken up the mantle to be the governor.

“Mark Selby has always had a good season. He’s won more than one tournament, but he and the other players are not playing anywhere near the level of snooker Ronnie is playing here.

“Mark has done excellently to win the tournaments he has (the Masters and UK Championship), but by his own admission he’s not played top snooker to win them.

“But you look at [John] Higgins and, although you don’t want to say he’s a spent force, he’s not the player he was.

“[Mark] Williams is the same. You look at the top players coming in as the favourites [for the title]. Well, there was [Neil] Robertson who flattered to deceive. Ding [Junhui] again has been a failure this year. He was my tip to win it this year, but he flattered to deceive.

“Selby, he was looking for the triple crown [Masters, UK and World titles in the same season], but he faltered.

“You have to say the other players are handing it to Ronnie on a plate.”

O’Sullivan has hardly broken sweat in winning three matches to reach the semi-finals of the green baize game’s showpiece tournament.

And Hendry, now retired from competitive play, is adamant his fellow professionals have to raise their games if they’re going to stop O’Sullivan, the four-time world champion, from always hogging the limelight.

“Any tournament without the best player there is devalued in my eyes whether they [the other players] like it or not,” added Hendry.

Today’s semi-finals: 10am - O’Sullivan v Trump; 2.30pm - Walden v Hawkins; 7pm - O’Sullivan v Trump - all sessions max of 8 frames.