STEVE Davis believes a Judd Trump victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in their Betfair World Championship semi-final showdown could be exactly what snooker needs.
With O’Sullivan threatening to retire again after revealing on Wednesday night that he only returned from a near year-long break because he needed money to pay school fees, six-times world champion Davis suggested the sport’s most naturally talented player may be exhibiting a lack of respect.
Time will tell whether 37-year-old O’Sullivan can walk away for good and, if he does, then sessions such as the opening stanza of his clash with young showman Trump are to be savoured.
The four-times champion led 4-1 in an absorbing contest, before Trump, the obvious heir to O’Sullivan as darling of the Crucible crowds, rattled off three frames in a row to haul himself level. They will resume today, for morning and evening sessions, at four frames each in the race to 17, their target for a place in the final.
Davis, king of the game in the 1980s, was not particularly surprised to learn of O’Sullivan’s pre-match remarks, nor particularly impressed.
He said: “We know full well that Ronnie O’Sullivan’s interviews are a bit like the British weather – they’re changeable.
“But there’s a dilemma for the snooker fan. They love what comes off the end of his cue, they sometimes hate what comes out of his mouth because it is sometimes disrespectful to snooker.” Davis also told the BBC: “The question to ask for every snooker fan is: ‘Is it better for Judd Trump to win this match rather than Ronnie O’Sullivan, even though Ronnie is such a breath of fresh air when he plays great?’
“It’s a tough question to ask. If he’s saying he’s not going to play on the table and that’s true, what use is he to the future of snooker?”
Dennis Taylor, world champion in 1985, believes that rather than quitting for good, O’Sullivan should consider entering just the World Championship every year.
And Taylor suspects that O’Sullivan could still break Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles by doing so.
Taylor said: “He loves playing the game still, as you can tell by the way he started against Judd. There’d be nothing wrong with winning the World Championship every year and playing in nothing else.
“And then, when he’s overtaken Stephen Hendry, I’ll say he’s the greatest player that has ever picked a cue up, so maybe that’s what he’s going to do.
“He’d be sorely missed by some but not by the players. They won’t mind if Ronnie doesn’t want to play.
“It means more money, more titles for them. I’d be surprised if he does finish but you never ever know with the Rocket.”
The match was being played not only with the backdrop of O’Sullivan stating this was his “swansong” World Championship, but with Trump saying he would try to “scare” his illustrious opponent. O’Sullivan responded by saying that Trump feared him.
O’Sullivan fired in breaks of 65, 75 and 89 on the way to his early three-frame lead but twenty-three-year-old Trump gutsily fought back.
He seemed down and out and heading 5-2 behind in frame seven when O’Sullivan built a handsome lead after a break of 56, which was most noteworthy for the sublime shot that kept it going on 36.
Faced with a difficult positional shot on the pink, with the reds awkwardly placed, he screwed the cue ball off the colour and swung it around three cushions and into a cluster on the top cushion. They split kindly, but O’Sullivan could not convert the break into a frame-winning clearance. Buoyed by pinching that one, Trump fired in 72 in the final frame of the session to end on a high.