Ronnie O’Sullivan may be the greatest snooker player to ever pick up a cue, but you still can’t play the game much better than Steve Davis or Stephen Hendry. reckons Dennis Taylor.
Debate has always rumbled on among snooker fans as to who is the best player ever to take to the baize and the Rocket tends to come out on top these days thanks to his amazing longevity int he game.
The 44-year-old is still among the elite, where he has been for the last 25 years, and his incredibly well-rounded game and natural flair regularly gives him the nod in snooker’s GOAT debate.
1985 world champion Taylor agrees with the general consensus, but he still feels Davis and Hendry are within touching distance of the Rocket after dominating the 1980s and ’90s respectively, and a new name may be entering the debate soon.
‘Davis and Hendry were amazing, to dominate for 10 years each was quite incredible,’ Taylor told Metro.co.uk. ‘I know the game’s moved on, but I still think you can’t play the game any better than them.
‘I know Steve sometimes wouldn’t agree but I’ve played them all, with the exception of Judd Trump who would be the latest one that would be dominating.
‘Davis, the way he played, would stand up against anybody because if you made a mistake he won the frame, so you can’t do any better than that.
‘There are more good players now and they tend to go for more attacking shots. But I remember Stephen Hendry coming on the scene and he was rolling in blues off the spot from the baulk cushion.
‘Judd has probably taken it to the next level now, he’s playing shots that nobody has ever played. It’s quite incredible. The standard has improved because there’s so many playing to a high standard now.
‘But back then, Hendry at his best and Steve Davis at his best, they’re still up there in the top three in the world.
‘Judd could get in there, but at the moment it would be Ronnie, Stephen and then Steve, for me, they’re still the three greatest, in that order.
‘Some people would put Stephen Hendry ahead of Ronnie, but for playing them at their best it would be Ronnie for me.’
Taylor has his top three greatest of all time set, but the Northern Irishman is a huge admirer of the current world champion and world number one, who he likens to the legendary Alex Higgins for his unique technique.
After potting his way to the World Championship final in 2011 as a 21-year-old, Taylor became a fan of the Bristolian and knew it was only a matter of time before he reached the pinnacle of the sport.
‘He is exceptional,’ Taylor said of Trump. ‘You talk about Jimmy White and Alex Higgins as being naturally gifted. This fella plays shots that those boys wouldn’t have been able to play.
‘In 2011, I said at the time, in 30 years in the game I’d never seen a potting exhibition at the Crucible like it, it was incredible. If he had beaten John Higgins that year he probably would have won an awful lot more. He just lost out in the final and it took him a few years to bounce back from that, but it was just a matter of time.
‘You couldn’t coach Judd Trump because when he lines the shot up he looks like he’s going to miss the ball. With Alex Higgins, you’re supposed to keep your head still but he did everything wrong and at the last split second it all comes together.’
While O’Sullivan is generally considered the greatest of all time, he has not conquered the Crucible like Hendry or Davis managed to, still falling short of their respective seven and six world titles.
Taylor believes this is simply down to concentration, which has never been the Rocket’s strong suit, but he still backs the five-time world champion to add one more Crucible title to his collection before he retires.
‘It’s keeping the consistency,’ explained the 71-year-old. ‘Something like Sheffield, to keep your concentration and consistency over 17 days is tough. Ronnie would have won more world titles if he had been able to do that but he lost focus and probably should have won at least a couple of more World Championships.
‘It’s a long time, a long stint. His concentration, when he’s working with Steve Peters he seems to be okay, but it’s an awful long time. He’s still got another World Championship in him though, that’s for sure.’
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