Neil Robertson is unconcerned by the prospect of plunging out of the world’s top 16 as he aims to resurrect a challenging campaign by clinching a fourth UK Snooker Championship title in York.

The 41-year-old Australian heads into the sport’s second biggest tournament – which starts on Saturday at the city’s Barbican Centre – having failed to get beyond the last 64 in any of his six ranking events so far this season.

In recent months, Robertson has spoken candidly about suffering from homesickness and will take a short break from the game when he jets home next month to spend the festive season with his family for the first time since prior to his solitary world title win in 2010.

Falling out of the sport’s elite is unthinkable for a player of Robertson’s calibre, but he remains upbeat about his prospects of turning his season around ahead of his return to one of his most profitable venues.

Robertson told the PA news agency: “I’ve been through similar things a couple of times before and it doesn’t really bother me.

“I’ve struggled to get up for some matches and my opponents have been on a roll and punished me for a few mistakes. I haven’t put in too many shocker performances. It’s just part of sport and you go through it now and again.

“I dropped out of the top 16 briefly before (in 2017), then I won the Scottish Open and went on to have quite a dominant spell for the next two years.

“When I dropped out, I remember it actually being a bit of a relief because you feel like you’ve experienced the worst of it. It wouldn’t bother me at all if I had to qualify for the Crucible, it’s not really in my thinking.”

Robertson had cut a forlorn figure when he lost to Jak Jones in the second round of this year’s World Championship, a defeat that stretched his winless streak at the Crucible to 13 years and shortly afterwards he realised it was time to take drastic action.

“When it really hit me was when I was watching my AFL team, Collingwood, win the Grand Final and all my family was watching it together back home and close friends I hadn’t really seen in the last 20-odd years,” added Robertson.

“I was Facetiming the people back home, they were having a barbecue on the day, there were my nephews who I hadn’t really seen much of and I thought, jeez it’s been 20 years of missing out on those moments. I found it really hard.”

Before his overdue return home, Robertson begins his quest to become only the fourth player to win four or more UK titles when he faces Zhou Yuelong – whom he beat in the semi-finals when he last triumphed three years ago – in the first round on Tuesday.

Defending champion Mark Allen gets the tournament under way on Saturday in a repeat of last year’s final against Ding Junhui, while Ronnie O’Sullivan – looking for a record eighth crown – also starts on Tuesday against Anthony McGill.

For Robertson, the return to a stand-alone last 32 event is a welcome development in the history of the prestigious tournament and one he believes will motivate the best players to bring out their best on the day.

“It’s a tournament that everyone gets up for,” added Robertson.

“It’s got a great history, it gets great coverage and it all adds up to the type of tournament that when you’re used to playing at the top of the game, you really want to win.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan has warned he will quit snooker if he is restricted from playing in China.

Exhibition events in the Far East are becoming increasingly lucrative, but often clash with World Snooker Tour events. O’Sullivan and other UK-based players are contracted to play in WST tournaments and could face sanctions if they miss events to play overseas.

The seven-time world champion says the sport is at a “crossroads”.

O’Sullivan said in an interview with the BBC to promote his new documentary: “If I can’t go and do what I need to do, which is play a lot in China, I won’t ever play again. So, we’re at a kind of crossroads now.

“If that gets to the point where I’m not able to do that, I’m not allowed to do that, I probably won’t play. I’ll probably go and play Chinese 8-Ball because I still want to play snooker, I still want a cue in my hand.

“There’s just not enough here in the UK for me to justify the effort that I put in.

“If someone’s going to respect me and value me more, why would I not go there? It’s like being in an unhealthy relationship with someone, why would you be in that?

“I’d love to be able to just keep playing snooker for the next five, six, seven, eight years, but if I’m going to be forced into a situation where that’s not possible, then I’m not going to just accept whatever 132 players do, which is to go and play tournament after tournament, week in, week out.”

O’Sullivan has famously derided the standard on the WST in the past, suggesting he would need to lose a limb to drop down the rankings.

He still adopts that stance, claiming he is “revolted” by mediocrity.

“I don’t think it’s very hard to be a top-16 snooker player. I could probably get away with playing once a week for two or three hours a day,” O’Sullivan, 47, added.

“I find it hard to put myself in their shoes because I was in their shoes and I didn’t accept top 50 as OK.

“I’m not a great lover for mediocrity… I find it quite revolting in some ways, when I see people accepting that. That’s why I don’t hang around snooker people at venues because I just don’t like seeing it.

“I don’t think there’s enough good matches. I think there’s a lot of players that people don’t know, that don’t play the game in the right way.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan announced his decision to step away from snooker due to personal reasons on this day in 2012.

The star’s self-imposed exile did not last long and he would return for the season-ending World Championship and win it.

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said at the time: “I have spoken to Ronnie and he has decided to withdraw from any events he has entered, and he will not be playing for the rest of this season. He has some personal issues which he needs to resolve and we wish him all the best for the future.”

In May 2012, after winning his fourth world title, O’Sullivan said he intended to take some time away from the sport.

“I don’t intend to stay in the game long, even though I feel in a lot better place,” he said. “I’ve made that decision and this might – I’m not saying it is – be my last time in this tournament.”

Just a few months later, in 2013, he won a fifth world title – beating Barry Hawkins – although O’Sullivan had to wait seven years for a sixth, before adding a seventh in 2022.

O’Sullivan has continued his hints at retirement having repeatedly said he had fallen out of love with the game but just last year reiterated his focus.

He said: “I feel like I’ve got life in perspective – I spent enough years getting disappointed by the game. I thought let’s try not to get disappointed and it’s freed me up a bit.

“I’m still competitive. If I take up anything I want to be better, it’s just natural and I’ll never lose that, so the players can expect me to keep coming for more.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan will swap the green baize for the silver screen next month when the behind-the-scenes story of his quest to claim a record-equalling seventh World Snooker Championship is released in the UK.

‘Ronnie O’Sullivan: The Edge of Everything’ has been produced by David Beckham’s Studio 99, and the initial cinematic release on November 21 is preceded by a special Q&A with the former Manchester United and England star.

Explaining his decision to add to the canon of sporting documentaries, O’Sullivan said: “My highs and lows have been well-documented by the media but I felt like now was the right time to do something more definitive – something that I can look back and reflect on as I contemplate retirement.

“Going into my seventh World Championship I wasn’t sure I had it in me but allowing the cameras in gave me perspective and was a strange catharsis.”

The film, which is directed by Sam Blair, who was behind ‘Maradona 86’ and others, will subsequently be released on Prime Video on November 23, before opening in select cinemas nationwide the following day.

O’Sullivan revealed how the filming of the documentary had helped give him a new “perspective”, shortly after he provided it with a fairytale finish in 2022 with his emotional final victory over Judd Trump.

“I’ve given complete access to the point where if you put a fly on the wall and followed me for 17 days, that’s basically what happened,” O’Sullivan said at the time.

“They’ve been in my dressing room, they’ve been in my hotel room before and after matches and sessions. I embraced it because whatever I get involved in, let’s just make it the best I could possibly do.

“These snooker Gods, their timing is unbelievable. Last year I just hit fire at the right time when they (the cameras) were here, and the stars were written for me. They always have been ever since I was a kid in this game.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan will swap the green baize for the silver screen next month when the behind-the-scenes story of his quest to claim a record-equalling seventh World Snooker Championship is released in the UK.

‘Ronnie O’Sullivan: The Edge of Everything’ has been produced by David Beckham’s Studio 99, and the initial cinematic release on November 21 is preceded by a special Q&A with the former Manchester United and England star.

Explaining his decision to add to the canon of sporting documentaries, O’Sullivan said: “My highs and lows have been well-documented by the media but I felt like now was the right time to do something more definitive – something that I can look back and reflect on as I contemplate retirement.

“Going into my seventh World Championship I wasn’t sure I had it in me but allowing the cameras in gave me perspective and was a strange catharsis.”

The film, which is directed by Sam Blair, who was behind ‘Maradona 86’ and others, will subsequently be released on Prime Video on November 23, before opening in select cinemas nationwide the following day.

O’Sullivan revealed how the filming of the documentary had helped give him a new “perspective”, shortly after he provided it with a fairytale finish in 2022 with his emotional final victory over Judd Trump.

“I’ve given complete access to the point where if you put a fly on the wall and followed me for 17 days, that’s basically what happened,” O’Sullivan said at the time.

“They’ve been in my dressing room, they’ve been in my hotel room before and after matches and sessions. I embraced it because whatever I get involved in, let’s just make it the best I could possibly do.

“These snooker Gods, their timing is unbelievable. Last year I just hit fire at the right time when they (the cameras) were here, and the stars were written for me. They always have been ever since I was a kid in this game.”

Snooker player Stephen Lee was banned for 12 years after being found guilty of seven charges of match-fixing, on this day in 2013.

The then 38-year-old was found guilty of the charges by an independent tribunal and the sanction was imposed on Lee a week later.

The former world number five was found guilty of match-fixing charges relating to seven matches in 2008 and 2009.

As well as the 12-year ban, tribunal chairman Adam Lewis QC also ordered that Lee pay costs of £40,000.

A statement from the World Professional Billards and Snooker Association confirmed the suspension was calculated from 12 October 2012, when the interim suspension was imposed, and the ban would continue until 12 October 2024.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson said: “We take no pride in having to deal with such serious issues. However this demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that snooker is free from corruption.

“It is an important part of our anti-corruption approach that players found to be involved in fixing matches or any aspect of a match are severely dealt with.

“We work closely with partners globally and the message we are sending is that if you get involved in match-fixing you will be found out and removed from the sport.”

The WPBSA had been seeking a lifetime ban but the organisation’s head of disciplinary Nigel Mawer insisted the 12-year suspension was effectively the same thing.

Mawer told PA: “We did say we were seeking a life ban because if it was seven matches that had been fixed including during the World Championship.

“But in effect it is a life ban because I think it is highly unlikely that Stephen Lee will be able to come back to the sport at this level.

“We don’t take great pleasure out of that – this is a case of a fantastic snooker player who has thrown it all away through making the wrong decisions.

“It is only human to have a degree of sympathy for him and it is going to be very difficult for him but we have to send a very strong message that match-fixing is not going to be tolerated.

“To my knowledge this is the longest ban ever handed down and there are £40,000 costs to pay too if he ever wants to come back.”

World Snooker chairman Steve Dawson is confident the sport can move forward from an investigation into match-fixing – but warned corruption will continue to be stamped out.

Following a disciplinary enquiry by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, Liang Wenbo and Li Hang were banned from snooker for life.

Eight other Chinese players – including 2021 Masters champion Yan Bingtao – were suspended for between five years and four months, in the case of Lu Ning, to one year and eight months for Zhao Xintong.

While commending the WPBSA for the thoroughness of the “very complex” and independent investigation, Dawson accepted it had been a “difficult time” for the sport.

Dawson, though, feels snooker can now come together in moving forwards and continuing to educate players on potential pitfalls which could blight their career.

“Snooker is renowned for its integrity and the highest levels of player conduct,” Dawson said in a statement on the WST website.

“It is the duty of any sport to stamp out instances of corruption, as tour organisers we have that responsibility to our fans and players.

“WPBSA’s disciplinary commission, which is completely independent of WST, has to be transparent in dealing with corruption and punish any athlete found to have offended, with strong deterrents.

“WPBSA is a world leader in terms of their sophisticated tracking systems, and the manner in which they have pursued this matter to its conclusion proves their determination to stamp out corruption.

“The message to players is clear: if you cheat, you will get caught, and punished severely.

“Player education is crucial so that they are aware of the pitfalls, and the focus is on prevention rather than cure.

“WPBSA has a strong focus on educating, supporting and protecting players, and offering them confidential lines of communication if they have any concerns or information.

“Together, we will move forward with exciting plans for future growth.”

Sheffield Wednesday’s miraculous comeback in the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final against Peterborough, where they overturned a 4-0 first-leg deficit, was a reminder that anything can happen in sport.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the best comebacks in sport.

Botham’s Ashes

England’s plight against Australia in the second Ashes Test in 1981 was so bad they had checked out of their hotel early ahead of an anticipated defeat. Enter Ian Botham. With his side 41 for four when following on, Botham played one of the great Test innings, smashing 149 to make Australia bat again and set an albeit modest target of 130. Enter Bob Willis. The fast bowler produced the spell of his lifetime, decimating the Australian batting order in taking eight wickets for 43 runs to seal a famous 18-run victory. Instead of being 2-0 down in the series, England went on to win 3-1.

Miracle of Medinah

It seemed impossible that the Ryder Cup would be returning home with Europe going into the final day of the bi-annual tournament in 2012. The United States had dominated the opening two days on their home soil of Medinah in Chicago, opening up a 10-4 lead in the race to 14.5 ahead of Sunday’s singles. But Spanish captain Jose Maria Olazabal channelled the spirit of his mentor Seve Ballesteros and Europe produced a sea of blue on the leaderboard, with Martin Kaymer sealing the most unlikely of victories when he rolled home a 10-foot putt to claim a 14.5-13.5 victory.

Fury’s unlikely resurrection

When Tyson Fury was on the end of a vicious left hook from Deontay Wilder in the 12th round of their WBC heavyweight clash in Las Vegas it looked like goodnight for the British fighter. Laying prone on the canvas he appeared out cold until midway through the referee’s count, when he came back to life, shot up and was somehow able to carry on. Fury thought he had earlier done enough to be awarded a points victory, but the judges controversially scored it a draw. However Fury dominated the two subsequent rematches and still retains the WBC belt.

Miracle of Instanbul
Liverpool’s first European Cup final in 21 years and first in the Champions League era looked like it was going to be a damp squib as AC Milan raced into a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo (2). But Steven Gerrard inspired the monumental second-half comeback, with Liverpool scoring three times in seven minutes as Vladimir Smicer and Xavi Alonso also bagged. Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was the hero in the penalty shoot-out, saving from Andrea Pirlo and Andrei Shevchenko to claim a miraculous victory for Rafael Benitez’s side.

Brady’s Brunch

Even Tom Brady must have questioned whether his New England Patriots side had any chance of winning the 2017 Superbowl when they trailed the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter. But the NFL great cemented his position as the best quarterback of all time by inspiring his side to a miraculous 34-28 victory in overtime. It was the first Supervowl to be decided in an additional period and was also the largest comeback in the showpiece match.

Brecel back from the brink

Luca Brecel beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in this year’s World Snooker Championship quarter-final but the Belgian’s run looked like coming to an end in the semis against Si Jiahui when the Chinese debutant powered into a 14-5 lead in the race to 17. What happened next was the greatest comeback in Crucible history as Brecel won 11 successive frames, eventually claiming a remarkable 17-15 victory. He ensured that his fortnight in Sheffield ended in glory, beating Mark Selby in the final to win a first world title.

Luca Brecel rendered Mark Selby’s maximum a distant memory as he fired four centuries to fashion a 15-10 lead after a high-quality penultimate session of their World Snooker Championship final at the Crucible.

Looking utterly undaunted by the biggest occasion of his career, the 28-year-old Belgian moved just three frames away from becoming the first winner of the title from mainland Europe, and the first overseas winner since Neil Robertson in 2010.

Selby had entered the session on a high after Sunday evening’s stunning 147 but it was Brecel who rose to the occasion, blasting three of those hundred breaks in the first four frames as he turned his 9-8 overnight lead into a 13-8 advantage.

The four-time champion looked distinctly out of sorts, cueing up many of Brecel’s chances by leaving reds dangling desperately over corner pockets, but no-one would have expected anything less than one of his trademark stirring fightbacks.

Just as he dredged his way back to win previous finals over Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, Selby launched his assault straight after the interval, despite some sterling resistance from Brecel who reclaimed the majority of a 68-point deficit.

Selby also took what felt like a pivotal 23rd frame, as he clawed back from 41 points behind and got the better of a lengthy safety battle on the last red to reduce the deficit once again to 13-10.

But if there ever was a sign that Brecel was unfazed it came in the next frame when the Belgian built on a brilliant opening red to serve up his fourth century of the session, a nerveless 119, to restore his four-frame advantage.

For all his centuries, it was arguably Brecel’s brilliant clearance to pink in the final frame of the session that was most impressive, as he wiped out Selby’s 40-point lead to move three frames away from claiming his maiden crown.

Mark Selby made the first maximum break in a World Snooker Championship final as he reeled off the final three frames of an exhilarating opening day to trail Belgium’s Luca Brecel 9-8 overnight at the Crucible.

Forty years after Cliff Thorburn compiled the first 147 in the tournament, four-time champion Selby polished off the 15th to add his name to the list of history-makers at the famous venue.

Selby’s maximum earned him a share of the £40,000 tournament highest break prize with Kyren Wilson, who also made a 147 in his first-round win over Ryan Day.

His achievement capped an absorbing first two sessions in which Brecel threatened to pot his way into a significant lead only for the 39-year-old to show all of his renowned tenacity to drag himself back into contention ahead of Monday’s conclusion.

Twice previously in finals, against Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, Selby has trailed heavily only to roar back and clinch victory and he is now a heavy favourite to finish the job against Brecel, who before this year had not won a match in five visits to the Crucible.

Having carved a reputation as a comeback king after his wins over O’Sullivan and Si Jiahui, the Belgian found himself in uncharted territory as a front-runner after blazing a trail with some epic long pots to take the first session 6-2.

Breaks of 77 and 90 helped him punish Selby, who uncharacteristically missed an easy brown and two blacks off their spots and was seemingly suffering after his early-hours semi-final win over Mark Allen the previous night.

In a thrilling start to the evening session, Selby summoned a 134 total clearance only for Brecel to respond with a high-octane 99, including a series of trick-shots on the colours, to immediately restore his four-frame advantage.

But Brecel’s potting prowess was matched by a growing tendency to miss easy balls, and after potting a series of impressive long shots in the next he missed a comparatively easy red, allowing Selby to post a break of 96 to narrow the deficit to 7-4.

Another missed opportunity enabled Selby to recover Brecel’s 42-point head-start and win frame 12, but the Belgian responded well with breaks of 72 and 67 after the mid-session interval to pull 9-5 in front.

It was classic Selby territory, however, and he punished a careless Brecel split with a break of 61 before summoning his historic maximum, completed with the minimum of fuss after plucking the final problematic red away from the side cushion.

Referee Brendan Moore, officiating in his third and last Crucible final before retirement, was the first to congratulate Selby, who was also embraced warmly by a smiling Brecel.

The Belgian looked set to extend his overnight advantage when he went 48 points clear in the final frame of the evening but Selby typically managed to refocus and take the frame to leave a thrilling 2023 final on a knife-edge.

Comeback king Luca Brecel revelled in his new role as a front-runner after dominating the opening session of the World Snooker Championship final against four-time winner Mark Selby at the Crucible.

The Belgian, who reeled off seven straight frames to sink Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last eight and then 11 in a row to overcome Si Jiahui, continued his exhilarating progress as he soared into a 6-2 lead ahead of their resumption later on Sunday.

Brecel’s high-octane approach was underscored in the final frame of the session when he clattered the cue-ball into the pack, scattering reds around the table and gifting him the chance to mop up with a break of 70.

In contrast, there were worrying signs for Selby, not-so-fresh from his early hours semi-final win over Mark Allen, who missed a number of early chances and produced rare errors in his safety game that were brutally exposed by the buoyant 28-year-old.

Brecel, having never won a match in five previous visits to the Crucible, continued his apparently nerveless approach by reeling off the first three frames including breaks of 77 and 90.

Errors littered Selby’s game, including two missed blacks off their spots, and he could have been further punished in the fourth frame when he ran aground on 36, only for Brecel to leave a red dangling over the middle pocket.

Selby, however, failed to capitalise on getting his first frame on the board. Brecel pressed further ahead after a well-crafted break of 67, then got the better of a lengthy safety exchange to clinch the sixth by cutting in a tight blue.

Even when Selby responded with a frame-winning break of 62 in the next, the questions remained, as another missed black briefly tempted Brecel back to the table in search of snookers.

He quickly aborted his unlikely mission, preferring to get back to what he did best, and it was not long before his aggressive approach paid dividends once again as he ended the afternoon with a four-frame advantage.

Four-time champion Mark Selby came through a late-night battle with Mark Allen to set up a World Snooker Championship final with Crucible history maker Luca Brecel.

The 39-year-old was embroiled in a tense thriller with the Northern Irishman, eventually getting over the line with a 17-15 victory at 12.48am on Sunday morning – just 12 hours before the final is due to start.

Selby, who last won the tournament in 2021, probably thought he would have been done and dusted much earlier as five successive frames at the start of Saturday’s evening session put him one away from victory shortly before 10pm.

Yet, he had to wait the best part of three hours before potting the final ball as Allen hit back with five successive frames of his own and threatened to take it even deeper into the night.

Selby said: “I was just happy to get over the line, I felt I played well from 11-10 to 16-10 and then missed a couple of chances.

“At 16-15 he probably goes favourite because he had the momentum. It means everything to be back, I want to try and win it now I’m in the final.

“I don’t feel too bad right now, but I haven’t been sleeping too well while I’ve been here. If I don’t sleep well tonight there is something wrong.

“Luca will be fresh, he has had a night off, but if it means I only get 10 hours and playing in the World Championship final, I’d rather have that than have 24 hours off and be driving home.”

While Selby will have a quick turnaround before Sunday’s final, Brecel will have been tucked up and relaxed after he created history earlier in the day in his semi-final win over Si Jiahui.

The Belgian, who conquered Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-final, produced the largest comeback at the famous Sheffield venue, winning 11 frames on the spin to turn a 14-5 deficit into a 17-14 victory.

He became the first player in Crucible history to overturn a nine-frame deficit and booked his first World Championship final, having never previously got past the first round.

Brecel said of his miraculous recovery against the 20-year-old Chinese debutant: “At 14-12, 14-13 I knew I had a chance, but I think 14-14 I was really believing it because I could see he was struggling and I was playing great stuff.

“But I knew I could have lost as well. To win is absolutely unbelievable, it is the biggest game of my life. I was in disbelief, I was shaking.

“The whole game I was expecting to lose, even with a session to spare, so to even have a chance to win was the craziest feeling ever in my body and I can’t believe I did it.

“I have never won a game here and now I am in the final, it is some story. It is going to take a while to sink in.”

Play was halted at the World Snooker Championship on Monday after two Just Stop Oil protesters interrupted matches at the Crucible.

The first-round match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry was disrupted when a man wearing the movement's slogan climbed onto table one and threw orange paint over it before he was removed by security.

A woman attempted to glue herself to table two, on which Mark Allen was playing Fan Zhengyi, but she was stopped by the match referee.

Action on table two was able to continue, yet the match between Milkins and Perry was suspended for the day as table one needed to be re-clothed.

Just Stop Oil released a statement claiming responsibility for the protest, saying: "Two supporters of Just Stop Oil have disrupted the World Snooker Championship, climbing onto the snooker tables and throwing paint over one.

"They are demanding that the government stop all new UK fossil fuel projects and are calling on UK sporting institutions to join in civil resistance against the government's genocidal policies."

Just Stop Oil was behind another prominent sporting protest last year when a man attached himself to a goal post at Goodison Park during Everton's Premier League win over Newcastle United.

Ronnie O'Sullivan roared to a scintillating seventh World Championship title and was instantly acclaimed snooker's greatest of all time.

The serial record breaker has become the tournament's oldest ever winner, with the 46-year-old beating Judd Trump 18-13 in the two-day final.

From his first triumph in 2001, through to the historic seventh that moves him alongside Stephen Hendry, O'Sullivan has pushed the sport to new heights.

He has long since passed Hendry on the list of ranking event titles, and now has an unsurpassed seven each at the Masters, World Championship and UK Championship. This has been his 30th tilt at the World Championship, having made his debut as a 17-year-old in 1993.

O'Sullivan built a 12-5 lead over a subdued Trump on Sunday, with that surge marred by an altercation with Belgian referee Olivier Marteel, who formally warned the veteran over an alleged gesture. In response, a rankled O'Sullivan denied any misbehaviour and snapped back at Marteel: "You saw nothing. Don't start."

He later claimed in an interview with Eurosport, who employ him as a pundit, that Marteel appeared to be "looking for trouble".

Followed around by a film crew putting together a Netflix-style documentary on his life, the mercurial O’Sullivan has given the cameras plenty to feast on, and he withstood a Trump fightback on Monday to reign again on snooker's most famous stage.

He had arrived in Sheffield level on six titles with Steve Davis and one behind Hendry, but O'Sullivan has swept past David Gilbert, Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire and John Higgins and now seen off Trump during the 17-day tournament.

Cliff Thorburn, Canada's 1980 world champion, says maverick O'Sullivan's record-equalling Crucible crown ends all debate about who deserves to be recognised as number one for the ages.

"I think so, absolutely," Thorburn told Stats Perform. "There's no doubt in anyone's mind. Davis and Hendry did almost all of their stuff in a 10-year stint and that's it. Ronnie's done his in 30 years. He's only won seven, but with Davis and Hendry they basically stopped winning. It just stopped. But Ronnie's shown up all the time, and he's dug as deep as anyone at this tournament."

O'Sullivan, who earns £500,000 for his victory, shared an intense hug with Trump after crossing the winning line, and said: "That's probably the greatest result I've ever had. I've never bothered about records. You let the snooker gods decide what they're going to decide and this 17 days, they were on my side."

Trump said: "It's an amazing achievement and he'll go down as the best player of all time. It wouldn't surprise me if he beats the record and gets to eight. He seems to still want it more than anyone else. I think he'll definitely get one more. If he gets another one next year he might be able to get to 10."

Rocket Ronnie's latest records

7 - World Championship titles, level with Stephen Hendry.

74 - Match victories at the Crucible.

21 - 'Triple Crown' titles (7 x World Championship, 7 x Masters, 7 x UK Championship).

21 - Years between first and most recent Crucible titles.

46 years, four months, 27 days - Oldest world champion, beating Ray Reardon's 1978 win as a 45-year-old.

39 - Ranking event titles.

If you can make it in New York, the theory goes that you can make it anywhere, so the path from Broadway to Sheffield's Crucible Theatre should hold no fear for Ahmed Aly Elsayed.

Aly is a new face to many on snooker’s expanding veterans' circuit, as the sport builds on the prosperity of its golden age by rolling out stars of yesteryear on its most famous stage.

As well as undisputed legends Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty, regional title winners from all corners of the globe are rocking up in Sheffield for the World Seniors Championship, an annual jamboree that begins on Wednesday. Aly will become the first American to compete at the Crucible.

Life will replicate art when Egypt-born Brooklynite Aly competes, after he acted out two snooker player parts in the 2018 Broadway production The Nap, one of which was that of a finalist at the World Championship.

Aly's day job is that of billiard room manager at the New York Athletic Club, a renowned 24-story pile at 180 Central Park South.

"He's a very good player," Cliff Thorburn, the 1980 world champion, tells Stats Perform. "One of his functions at the New York Athletic Club is looking after the billiard room. They've got possibly the nicest snooker room in the world. It overlooks Central Park and I would highly recommend having a Sunday brunch there in the fall, as the leaves are changing.

"The park's right there and you look down on it. With your breakfast you get a Bloody Mary for starters, and it's just a fabulous place."

Thorburn, a Canadian with a 'Magnum PI' moustache, remembers Aly looking "rough around the edges" when he first set eyes on his cue action.

"But when I saw him in Toronto he had gained a polish to his game," said Thorburn. "He wears a suit very well, like Ronnie O'Sullivan or Judd Trump.

"Ahmed polished his game, and he's taken it to a new level, but you're only as good as the players around you unless you've got that special thing about you. He does, he's very sharp, and I expect something good from him, but this is the deep end. That's pressure, isn’t it!”

Performing shots to order on a table in front of Broadway audiences is one thing, but facing gritty rivals at the theatre venue in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, that has hosted the main tour's World Championship since 1977, will be a whole new test of Aly's stage presence.

"He had to play certain shots on Broadway, and of course the stage is live," said Thorburn. "He looks like a prince, he's got that air about him: well groomed, a good guy, a gentleman, competitive, and he loves his snooker. I hope he gives himself a fair shot at it."

Aly, the 2021 Pan American senior champion, who picked up that title at the Corner Bank venue in Toronto, will play Bradford's Wayne Cooper for the right to tackle 1997 world champion Doherty at the last-16 stage.

Snooker's emergence as a viable senior spectacle has reflected a growth market in sports where it is feasible to remain competitive long after a sportsperson's usual shelf life.

Golf's PGA Champions Tour is sport's ultimate veterans' circuit, with over $62million in prize money due to be paid out this year. Germany's Bernhard Langer has earned over $30million on that tour, mind-boggling considering this is not sport at its highest level.

Snooker is not aiming to compete at that level, but its equivalent tour is soaring in popularity, with the World Seniors Championship being broadcast by the BBC and staged at snooker's most established venue. Crowds will flock, just as they have to the elite World Championship over the past fortnight.

"They're at the Crucible and rightfully so," said Thorburn. "I think it's the right place to have it, and there's a lot of memories that have come from these players that are going to be playing now."

Thorburn's great chum Bob Chaperon is returning to the Crucible stage, some 32 years since he became the last Canadian winner of an individual ranking title, beating Alex Higgins in the 1990 British Open final. Three weeks after that, Chaperon teamed up with Thorburn, who was recovering from a burst appendix, and Alain Robidoux to win snooker's World Cup for Canada.

Naturally, Thorburn is pulling for Chaperon, who faces Welshman Philip Williams first up.

"Bob was supposed to be here two years ago, but COVID stopped him," Thorburn says. "He’s playing Philip, who beat me here once before. So let me think, who do I want to win? Bob, yes Bob. I'm so glad I'm going to be here. Bob's got the chance to cause some damage."

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