Ronnie O’Sullivan names two potential ‘Max Verstappens of snooker’

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Ronnie O’Sullivan has claimed that two of snooker’s rising stars could potentially dominate the sport in a similar way to Max Verstappen in Formula One. The Dutchman has been untouchable since winning his first title in 2021 and is currently on a record-breaking streak of 10 successive Grand Prix victories.

O’Sullivan has also dominated snooker for a large part of his career, winning seven World Championships and another seven Masters titles since turning professional over 30 years ago. His time in the sport will eventually come to an end, though, opening the door for another player to replace him at the top.

The 47-year-old believes that Belgian teenager Ben Mertens, who reached the last 16 at the Welsh Open earlier this year, could be in line to emerge as snooker’s next great talent. O’Sullivan has also tipped Chinese prospect Si Jiahui to dominate proceedings in future if he makes the most of his sky-high potential.

“When Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis were around, they were so much better than everybody else, so it was easy to just pick one,” said O’Sullivan while discussing snooker’s next generation after reaching the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters on Tuesday.

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“Now you have maybe five, 10 or 15 players who are maybe all as good as each other. I think the sport needs someone. I think the sport is always more exciting if one player can dominate, because everybody wants to see that player lose.

“At the moment, there isn’t really one player dominating. There are many, many good players, there’s a lot of very good young players. [There are] some good players from Belgium. Ben Mertens is good and obviously Luca [Brecel] winning the World Championship.

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“China has many, many good players. Si Jiahui played fantastically in the World Championship, a great talent, a great player. It’d be nice to see one of them really dominate. Every sport needs one like Verstappen, he’s winning everything and people just want to see if he’s going to lose today.

“People want to watch the really dominant players to see if somebody can beat them, so snooker needs one of them.”

O’Sullivan will inevitably be replaced as snooker’s dominant figure when he eventually steps back from the sport, but he is showing no sign of retiring any time soon. The Rocket’s immediate focus will be on winning his third successive Shanghai Masters title, but he will first need to beat familiar foe John Higgins in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

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