Home sports Ronnie O’Sullivan picks two players who could thrive at unique World Snooker Championship

Ronnie O’Sullivan picks two players who could thrive at unique World Snooker Championship

Ronnie O’Sullivan picks two players who could thrive at unique World Snooker Championship

Ronnie O’Sullivan has tipped Barry Hawkins to do well at the Crucible this year (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan feels certain players may thrive at the World Snooker Championship this year, with the lack of crowd at the Crucible easing the pressure, picking out Barry Hawkins and Stephen Maguire as possible beneficiaries.

The World Championship began on Friday morning with a reduced crowd at the Crucible, but after an announcement from the Prime Minister, there will be no fans in attendance from Saturday onwards.

The Crucible atmosphere is famously intense, with the tight nature of the arena making it feel like the crowd is on top of the players throughout.

Some thrive in that environment, and the Rocket believes that others will benefit from the pressure being relieved, namely Hawkins and Maguire.

The five-time world champion also feels the long break ahead of the World Championship, due to the coronavirus postponement, has helped him out as everyone heads to Sheffield on a level playing field.

‘Going into this year’s World Championships, in many ways it’s better for me that everybody’s had the break and stopped their momentum,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport’s podcast The Break.

‘I had no momentum and they had a lot, so really it’s like we’re starting a new season, really.

‘Everyone is coming in cold, in many ways. I think it’s a bit more suited to me that it’s worked out how it’s worked out.

‘Obviously it’s not ideal, but whether there’s a crowd there or not you’re still playing snooker, you’ve still got an opponent sitting there and if you make a mistake and he’s on form he’s going to punish you.

‘As far as that goes, I don’t think that changes at all. But what I do think will change, with the crowd and the atmosphere plays a part at any tournament, but especially at the Crucible for what it is, it’s the biggest event we play in.

‘At key moments maybe there’s not going to be that charge of energy, and the players feel it.

‘Some players deal with it better than others, so maybe that will play a part this year where some players, someone like Barry Hawkins or Stephen Maguire, who just go about their business and they’re very, very good, they’ll punish you and maybe that situation might benefit them more than Judd [Trump] or John Higgins who thrives on the energy of the crowd.’

Hawkins actually has an extremely good record at the Crucible under normal conditions, reaching a final and four semi-finals in the last seven years, losing out to O’Sullivan in the 2014 final.

Stephen Maguire could be a dark horse at the Crucible (Picture: Getty Images)

Maguire has been much more underwhelming in Sheffield, reaching just two semi-finals since his World Championship debut in 2004, appearing at every edition of the event since then.

The Scot won the most recent event before the Crucible, the Tour Championship, which was played behind closed doors, so perhaps he is well set to produce without a crowd.

World number two Neil Robertson questioned whether Maguire would have won the Tour Championship with a crowd in place.

‘It was the first tournament Maguire had won in seven or eight years,’ Robertson told Sporting Life. ‘He’s a brilliant player. But would he have played as well with a crowd there, that would have been on him for every mistake?

‘It remains to be seen.’

MORE: Judd Trump: Ronnie O’Sullivan should pull out over World Snooker Championship concerns

MORE: Ronnie O’Sullivan: Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is a player I don’t mind losing to

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