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Ronnie O’Sullivan hits out at snooker’s “poor” younger generation

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The Rocket has his say (Photo by Nigel French/PA Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has joked he would “need to lose an arm and a leg” to drop out of the world’s top 50 given the “poor” standard of the sport’s younger generation.

O’Sullivan, 44, was a member of the sport’s infamous ‘Class of 92’, having turned professional that year alongside the likes of John Higgins and Mark Williams.

The five-time World Champion remains among the sport’s elite as world number six and is level with Stephen Hendry on a record 36 career ranking titles.

O’Sullivan, however, believes his longevity is not solely down to his natural ability, but the lack of competition from snooker’s next generation.

The Rocket wrapped up a 13-10 win over Ding Junhui on Sunday evening to reach the Quarter-Finals of the World Championship, and did not hold back in his post-match interview.

O’Sullivan told BBC Sport: “If you look at the younger players coming through, they’re not that good really.

“Most of them would probably do well as half decent amateurs, well, not even amateurs, they’re so bad.

“A lot of them that you see, you just think, I’ve probably got to lose and arm and a leg to fall outside of the top 50.

“That’s really why we’re kind of hovering around because of how poor it is down that end.”

O’Sullivan followed up his 10-1 rout of Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in Round One with another accomplished all-round display to knock out the reigning UK Champion.

He made two centuries plus a further four 80+ breaks, and admits he has a more relaxed mindset without the pressure of a crowd and being hassled by fans outside of The Crucible.

“It’s so much easier getting in and out of the venue,” added O’Sullivan.

“I can actually walk to the venue nice and relaxed and walk out.

“It’s so different and for me, that’s why I don’t like this tournament because it’s such a headache trying to get in and out that I’m spending most of my time virtually running away from people trying to escape it all.

“This year with the Covid situation it’s allowed people to get on with their job and not have to play hide and seek.

“It’s better with the fans, of course it is. It’s like playing in a morgue out there.

“Obviously it would be great if you could have the fans here at a tournament like this and get in and out of the venue easily.

“For the top players it can be a nightmare and it puts you off actually wanting to come here.

“I’d rather go and play in Crawley, that’s how bad it is.”

O’Sullivan will now face three-time World Champion Mark Williams in the Last Eight but played down his chances of challenging for a sixth world title.

He added: “I was just glad I found a way to try and compete with my mind out there.

“For a while I’ve just been going out there just slapping balls about, having a bit of fun and probably not caring if I won or lost.

“I suppose deep down I do care but I suppose you just have to treat it like a bit of fun.

“I spoke to Steve Peters and I’ve worked on a few things so when I went out there, my mind was actually focused on the job.

“Most of the time I’m out there thinking about other things and it’s not good, you’ve got to try and focus on the job in hand.”