Ronnie O'Sullivan has said he does not regard himself as the greatest player of all time as he believes it is up to others to decide in the snooker GOAT debate.
The Rocket will arrive in Sheffield ahead of the World Championship as the world No. 1 after he usurped reigning world champion, Mark Selby, following the Tour Championship in Llandudno, Wales.
It is the fifth occasion in O’Sullivan’s illustrious career that he has occupied the world No. 1 ranking, and the first time since 2019, as he goes to the Crucible looking for a record-equalling seventh world title.
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But regardless of whether he goes on to draw level with Stephen Hendry's record of World Championship crowns in a few weeks' time, the 46-year-old would not like to judge for himself who is the greatest player the sport has seen.
"Snooker is not all I do now; it is part of what I do," O'Sullivan told Eurosport in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the World Championship.
"I think if I was coming through snooker now - even in my prime - I still would not like to go through the grind of the tour.
"So I just take what I can from it: I take the good bits and try to leave the not-so-good bits out. I just like to keep the rustiness off and allow the snooker gods to maybe give me a tournament now and again these days. Whereas before, I would win quite a lot [of the tournaments] that I played in. In the last two years, I have not won so much, so maybe there is a sign there that I am not the player I was, even though I still feel like I play okay.
"Age catches up with you at some point, but I still enjoy and relish the challenge. I still enjoy getting my cue out. I still enjoy the lifestyle, and I make it work for me. I've had a great career and enjoyed it; it has been fantastic for me, so it is nice to have a plan and to see it through.
"I do not regard myself as the greatest ever. I think Stephen Hendry had a really good answer: as long as my name is in the conversation, you have to let other people decide that. All I have done is try to win and compete and play the way I want to play.

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"I have played a brand of snooker that is very difficult to play as an individual sportsman," he added. "To play the way I play, it is not easy. Sometimes it is easier to win if you are more of a defensive, negative, counter-puncher sort of player.
"I come out and I probably attack the balls more, which leaves you open to being picked off a little bit more. I just enjoy playing.
"Jimmy White played that brand and maybe it cost him winning the World Championship. I was able to stay true to that style of snooker and still win it six times. It is not easy.
"I was never big into records, but if people want to start talking about, 'is he a great, is he this...' I suppose you have to look at the record books and as far as World Championships, yes I am one behind Stephen Hendry. Not a bad place to be. I managed to do better in the other two majors and lots of other yardsticks if you want to throw them in as well.

Ronnie O'Sullivan wurde zuletzt 2020 Snooker-Weltmeister

Image credit: Getty Images

"Like I say, it is not really for me to decide, it is for other people. All I can do is go out and try to do my best. I have tried to win every tournament; I have also tried to win the important tournaments. In the back of your head, you want to win the three majors - the Masters, the UK and the worlds - and I have managed to win a fair amount of them as well."
Looking ahead to the World Championship, O'Sullivan said it becomes harder and harder to succeed "because you carry that tag on your back" after having achieved so much success in the sport with other players desperate to claim a famous upset win.
"I think it is harder for me because obviously my past, my history in the game makes every match feel like a final to a lot of people who play me. So I have that to deal with, I suppose. Whereas a lot of the other players can slip under the radar a bit.
"But I've embraced that and found that that is what happens, you know. You have to deal with that, so it is probably a bit harder for me now to win tournaments because you carry that tag on your back, if you like."
The main draw of the World Championship gets underway on April 16 with the final taking place on May 2, 2022. It will be the 46th consecutive year the World Championship is held in Sheffield, United Kingdom, and it will be the 16th and final ranking event of the 2021–22 snooker season.

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