Ronnie O’Sullivan says the ball is in Mark Selby’s court ahead of this year’s Betfred World Championship, writes Will Jennings.
The Rocket and Selby hold no fewer than eight world titles between them, with O’Sullivan reigning supreme five times between 2001 and 2013 and world No.7 Selby storming to a thrilling hat-trick between 2014 and 2017.
World No.6 O’Sullivan and the Jester from Leicester have enjoyed some scintillating battles over the years, with the Rocket triumphing on 18 of the 29 occasions they’ve met and Selby coming out on top ten times.
The Rocket reckons Selby is one of a select few players who can win this year’s Betfred World Championship behind closed doors - and it’s up to him if he wants to achieve it.
“A lot of it, the ball is in his court” the 44-year-old said of Selby.
“If it’s one of the top five players that is on top of their game, they will probably win the World Championships, and I think Mark Selby is one of them.
“For the top five, the ball is in their court, and whether they deliver or not remains to be seen.
“But there are another 27 players that will be at the Crucible that if they’re not on their game, ready to pounce and take advantage of that.”
Selby beat O’Sullivan in a memorable Scottish Open quarter-final this season, coming out 5-4 winner after a topsy-turvy contest under the Emirates Arena lights.
And Selby went on to clinch the third Home Nations event of the season in Glasgow, following up his English Open success in Crawley back in October.
O’Sullivan has described Selby as one of just five players - including himself - to possess sufficient ‘bottle’ to win title after title, alongside seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry, four-time winner John Higgins and three-time champion Mark Williams.
That sort of mental resolve is usually required in front of fans, but this year’s Betfred World Championships will be different as the behind closed doors format sweeps the sporting world in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
O’Sullivan knows Selby will pose a threat in whatever environment and has what it takes to conquer in the two-and-a-half-week marathon in Sheffield.
“I really don’t think the crowd is that much of an issue - I think it’s more about what you bring to the table and what you do on the table,” he added.
“That’s what wins you matches and what gives you the edge over your opponent - whoever does that better over the 17 days will probably win, so it’s very interesting.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.