Ronnie O’Sullivan’s iconic rival John Higgins admits he’s not in the same league

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s long-time rival John Higgins has conceded that he is not in the same bracket as The Rocket, who he believes is the greatest snooker player of all time. Higgins has battled it out with O’Sullivan for the best part of three decades but has fallen behind the man from Essex in recent years.

O’Sullivan equalled Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles last year and won the invitational Shanghai Masters back in September to consolidate his status as one of snooker’s best talents. Higgins, meanwhile, is enduring a two-year drought since winning the Players Championship in 2021 and believes that he is no longer in the same conversation as O’Sullivan and fellow great Mark Williams.

“I shouldn’t be in that bracket now, should I? Ronnie’s won in Shanghai, Mark’s won the British [Open], I’ll just leave those two guys to it because I shouldn’t be in the conversation,” said Higgins.

“I don’t think it inspires me at this stage of my life, but when you watch them winning you just think every credit to them for still doing it at this stage of their careers. You have such big respect for those guys still winning at this stage of their careers, you take your hat off to them.

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“The big takeaway is you see them with their families and the kids are all grown up, you see Mark with his boys and you think back to when I played Mark in the under-15s and he looks exactly the same as his boy does now. Time’s flown, it really has. When you see them win tournaments you take your hat off to them because it’s incredible.”

Higgins has previously insisted that O’Sullivan is the greatest player to have ever lived, with the 48-year-old lavishing his rival in high praise after losing to him at the Crucible last year. He told Eurosport: “I think a lot of people would still hold on to Stephen having the seven World Championships and he is the greatest, but there is no debate in my eyes.”

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O’Sullivan, meanwhile, was initially planning to defend his Champion of Champions title in Bolton this week but has since withdrawn from the tournament. He was set to face Zhang Anda in his opening match but has been replaced by Ding Junhui after pulling out of the event to prioritise his mental health.

“Mentally I feel a bit drained and stressed,” wrote O’Sullivan in a post on social media. “I want to look after my mental health and my body. I’m sorry to all the fans but I’ll be back stronger.”

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