Ronnie O’Sullivan is in a relaxed mood ahead of the defence of his World Championship title, but believes Neil Robertson is the biggest obstacle to him winning at the Crucible for a seventh time.
The 45-year-old ended a seven-year wait for a sixth world title when beating Kyren Wilson in the final, but he has not won an event since that victory in August.
O’Sullivan has lost five successive finals, the most recent being at the hands of Neil Robertson in the Tour Championship.
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He was comfortably second best to Robertson at Celtic Manor, and feels the Australian is favourite for the World Championship which gets underway on April 17.
"What happens at Sheffield is that when you get on a good run you seem to just win matches every year,” O’Sullivan said on Eurosport’s The Break podcast.
“It comes like a run in itself but then it can go the other way as well.
“I think [John] Higgins didn’t make a quarter-final for seven or eight years. You could have got any price you want down the bookies on that. I did the same from 2013 to 2021, I didn’t make a semi-final.
“Robertson is the same. I think every player goes through a little phase like that in their career at Sheffield where they just don’t seem to be able to make the final stages.
“I think at some point that will change for Neil and when it does I think you’ll see him win one, get to a final, maybe three finals on the spin.
"His game is built to do well in Sheffield and over the years he’s added to his game and now he’s taken over from John Higgins as the player with the best all-around game. He plays safety very well, his temperament is brilliant, his scoring is unbelievable, his potting is just frightening, I’ve never seen anyone with a cue action as good as that.
So, if you’re making a cake and putting all that into it you’re going to come out with a ‘Michel Roux’ cake and think, 'wow, that tastes amazing'.

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O’Sullivan has shown patches of brilliance this season, but has not found form in the finals he has contested.

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He is content with the state of his game heading into Sheffield, and is approaching the event in a positive state of mind.
“I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “I’ve had a great season. I’ve enjoyed playing. Everything is really good.
“I go to a tournament like ‘have I got my running boots with me? Yeah OK great. Have I got my restaurants sorted? Yeah, great.’
I can deal with the snooker, whatever it throws at me I’m alright because I’ve got those two things in place so the snooker becomes something I just do because I’m there. If I play great, brilliant!
“I’m super-enthusiastic about playing, and continuing, and trying to go as far as I can in the tournament.
“If I’m not playing great, I know I’m not a grinder and there’s no point me doing what Jimmy [White] seems to be doing which is trying to grind it out, take my time, get focused and over-practice.
“You won’t see me on the practice tables before a match ever because I don’t want to know how I’m playing ten minutes before I go out there. I’d rather find out when I’m there.
“With that kind of attitude, it’s a lot easier to deal with because otherwise it becomes tough. It’s a tough sport anyway so you have to find that happy medium.
“I feel alright to be honest with you. It’s no secret; it’s not my favourite tournament. Last year it was a bit better because there was not so much smothering going on. So I enjoyed last year and this year has been OK. I’m looking forward to Sheffield but also looking forward to a bit of a break at the end of it.”

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Commenting on the state of his game heading into the Crucible, O’Sullivan said: “I came back in the New Year, I took three or four weeks off after that, and I’ve enjoyed my snooker up until the Welsh [Open] when [John] Higgins gave me a good hiding.
"But I’ve enjoyed the best of three tournaments, I’ve enjoyed playing and just seeing where my game’s at. Every tournament hasn’t been about winning it’s been about ‘where’s my game now compared to last week?’ ‘I’ve taken three weeks off now, I wonder where it is compared to three weeks ago. OK not too bad.’
So because I was playing a bit more regularly I wasn’t at as much of a disadvantage when I was playing. Before I’d take six or seven weeks off and miss six or seven tournaments. When I did come back it took me three or four tournaments to even have a chance to compete really.
"It’s been a nice year in a way because I feel like I’ve had half a chance when I’ve played.”

'Hendry is right on Jimmy' - O'Sullivan agrees White should relax with snooker

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