O'Sullivan Strives for Perfection
Ronnie O'Sullivan's avowed intention to 'raise the bar' may drive his snooker rivals to drink.
After capturing the first ranking title of the new season in Preston last night O'Sullivan believes he can set new standards of excellence on the green baize.
The Rocket did not always produce his A-game during a 9-5 victory over Ian McCulloch in the Totesport Grand Prix.
However, his B-game was still too powerful for the local favourite who consoled himself with a £30,000 runner-up cheque and a career-best provisional ranking of 13th.
'The balls were not going where I wanted them to,' said the 28-year-old Essex star who nevertheless compiled two century breaks and four other half-centuries. McCulloch's best was 78 in frame 13 with the game almost out of reach.
'I like to move the balls around and to talk to them,' said the world number one. 'But I never felt comfortable out there.
'I suppose I could not see the wood for the trees. However, my match play was good and I knew I would win through.'
O'Sullivan's first ever Grand Prix crown extended his unbeaten run to 11 ranking event matches.
And despite a five-month summer lay-off he proved as difficult to beat in the north-west as he did during the World Championship in Sheffield last spring.
His victory, worth £60,000, extends his lead at the head of the world rankings while his two nearest challengers, Mark Williams and Stephen Hendry, both left for home lamenting whether their best days were behind them.
O'Sullivan, though, thinks his chief rivals will be back in the groove by the time the circuit moves to the Brighton Centre next month for the British Open.
'They will be back at the practice table working hard and I think they will all be firing once we get to Brighton. Class is permanent, form is temporary, as they say.'
O'Sullivan's success has coincided with his partnership with six-times world champion Ray Reardon. And O'Sullivan admits he is going to miss the Welsh pensioner until they meet up again on the south coast in four weeks' time.
'Ray sees the game the way I see it and we have a lot in common,' said the new champion. 'He is very good for me.'
McCulloch also relies a lot on outside help, notably his sports psychologist Graham Slater, and the world number 17 must be wondering what might have happened had he teamed up with Slater a lot earlier in his career.
They have been a partnership for only three years and at the age of 33 McCulloch's best days might have been behind him.
'Graham has been worth his weight in gold and just three weeks ago I was in his house ripping my hair out.
'It is difficult to put your finger on what he does but I guess he takes the rubbish out of your head and makes you see sense.
'That is two finals I have lost now but I will win one - it is just a matter of when. I have said previously that I don't think there are 16 players in the world better than me and I have proved that this week.'
Sporting Life - 11/10/2004