World Snooker Championship 2018: Ronnie O'Sullivan avoids Stephen Hendry comparisons

By Shamoon HafezBBC Sport at the Crucible Theatre
2018 World Championship
Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 21 April - 7 May
Coverage: Watch live across BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

Five-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan says it would be "difficult" to compare his record to that of Stephen Hendry as their success came in different eras.

O'Sullivan is chasing a sixth ranking title this season to move two adrift of Hendry's all-time record of 36.

'The Rocket' begins his campaign on Saturday (14:30 BST) against qualifier Stephen Maguire, live on the BBC.

And defending champion Mark Selby, who meets Joe Perry on Saturday, says O'Sullivan is the "player to beat".

O'Sullivan, the world number two, has been in superb form this season, claiming the English Open, Shanghai Masters, UK Championship, World Grand Prix and Players Championship to move into second place on the list of most ranking titles, with 33.

He has also made more centuries than any other player (70) this term, extending his own career record to 944.

Scot Hendry, who won seven world titles, retired in 2012 after a 13-2 quarter-final defeat by fellow countryman Maguire.

Asked how he ranks against Hendry, O'Sullivan, 42, said: "It is hard because it depends what era you have done it in. It is all right winning tournaments when the field is weak, so to compare records is difficult.

"The best record would be that of Roger Federer in tennis, who has done it in the era with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, so it makes it even more impressive. If he came along now, he would probably win 40 Grand Slams.

"I am not sure how to measure myself against Stephen Hendry. As long as I still get a bit of a buzz from snooker I will continue doing it.

"As you get older, you get wiser. I feel pretty good, I am happy with where my career is going, happy with what I am doing and the last two or three years I have had really good."

'You have to go out and do it'

O'Sullivan and world number one Selby are at opposite ends of the draw and would not meet until the final should each progress that far.

In 2014, Selby staged a remarkable comeback to beat defending champion O'Sullivan 18-14 in the final of the World Championship, which this year takes place on 6-7 May.

Leicester's Selby, aiming for a fourth world crown in five years, has had a mixed season having been troubled by a neck injury, although he did win the previous China Open event.

He told BBC Sport: "Sometimes you come in not having a great season but the World Championship gets you motivated because being at the Crucible is the best tournament we play in. Even if you have a bad season, you find something.

"I come here every year and I want to win it, anything less I see as a failure. I have been there and I know I am capable of winning it so you go in believing you can win the tournament.

"On performances this season, Ronnie is the favourite, that is rightly so with the amount of tournaments he has won and the way he has played. I would not say I am the one to beat but I am one of the players in with a chance.

"In this tournament, Ronnie is the person to beat."

Crucible 2018 - the numbers game

  • 17-day tournament, longest on the snooker calendar
  • Estimated global TV audience of 500m across more than 100 countries
  • Winner has to claim a total of 71 frames across five matches
  • Receives a record cheque of £425,000
  • Total prize money of £1.968m
Ronnie O'Sullivan praises Mark Selby's temperament

How many debutants are there?

Four players will be appearing at the event for the first time, taking the total number of competitors that have played at the Crucible to 206.

England's Chris Wakelin plays Judd Trump in the opening round and fellow Englishman Liam Highfield faces Masters champion Mark Allen.

They are joined by Thailand's Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who is up against four-time winner John Higgins, and China's Lyu Haotian - the lowest ranked player among the 32 - plays Hong Kong's Marco Fu.

Selby said: "There are some good first-round matches and there will be quite a few shocks."

Authorities getting shirty

Mark Selby wins the World Snooker Championship in 2017
Brian Wright, left, has called the football shirt ban "a load of rubbish"

For the first time, World Snooker has announced a dress code for spectatorsexternal-link with tickets entering the arena.

The organisation said: "Sorry football fans. The event promoter requests that no sportswear or team sport shirts are worn."

Fans will be refused entry and they will have to find alternative clothing if something is deemed unsuitable.

Brian Wright, who has been attending the Crucible since 1989 and is usually seen sat in the front row, told the Coventry Telegraphexternal-link the decision was "a load of rubbish".

He said: "[World Snooker chairman] Barry Hearn is an absolute disgrace, he wants to bring the sport in line with the darts. I may as well go in dressed as Snow White or a Smurf.

"He's a dinosaur and he's ruining the sport that I love."

O'Sullivan said it was "laughable" and added: "You pay the money for your ticket, you should be allowed to wear what you want.

"At the darts they seem to be walking around in Superman outfits."