Often written off. Yet, still going strong.
There will come a time when snooker’s Trinity will inevitably have to put away their cues and call it a day, but that day still seems a long way off yet.
Tennis has had the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic-Murray story arc, which is probably just about the closest any other sport has come to reproducing the same kind of sustained success that any group of frontrunners has enjoyed over a long period.
For the “Big Four” in tennis, they have managed to make it last for an immensely impressive 15 years and counting.
Yet, add another decade onto that and you’re roughly in the ballpark of how long Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, and Mark Williams have been lifting trophies, writing headlines, and at times dominating their sport.
Towards the end of the 1990s and into the new millennium, the trio’s permanent residency at the top of the world rankings and their involvement in the business end of most events were almost a guarantee.
While there have been plenty of periods of lull for each of them in the meantime, it has still been unusual to not have at least one of the three competing at the very highest level at any given time.
O’Sullivan and Higgins have obviously been the most consistent overall but the resurgence of Williams this season has invoked memories of the numerous seasons when they were battling alongside each other in an attempt to prove time and again just who was the best.
And what a campaign this has proven to be so far for the 42 year-olds who all turned professional together in the famously referenced “Class of 1992”.
The Welsh Open triumph for Higgins on Sunday represented the eighth ranking event in total won by the talented triumvirate during this campaign alone.
The Scot has bookended the continuous success with both the first and most recent victories, with his conquering of Cardiff adding to the Indian Open title he captured last summer.
In amongst those glories, O’Sullivan and Williams went on a surge that resulted in the pair claiming six out of nine ranking events staged between October of last year and this February.
The haul of eight trophies eclipses the trio’s previous best for a single term when together they won seven titles during the 1999/2000 season and, of course, there’s still time to add to that number with four ranking events still to be played in the coming weeks.
Some critics may point to the fact that many of the other marquee names, for one reason or another, have suffered from a dip in form for long periods of the season.
World champion Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump, and Neil Robertson – the quartet who has consistently conjured up the biggest additional threat over the last ten years or so – have all been ranking event winners as well this season but those triumphs have been the exception to what has often otherwise been a campaign of disappointment.
O’Sullivan, Higgins, and Williams’ renewed dominance is highlighted again in their position in the one-year rankings list that determines the top 16 who qualify for this month’s lucrative Players Championship in Llandudno.
O’Sullivan, with notable standout victories in the heavily financed UK Championship and Shanghai Masters, obviously leads the way with more than half a million pounds in prize money but Williams and Higgins have forced themselves into the subsequent positions behind the “Rocket” and one would be forgiven for thinking that we’ve taken a DeLorean time machine back into the past.
This season has seen all three reach milestones that have been particularly important to them with O’Sullivan and Higgins both surpassing Steve Davis’ tally of 28 ranking event wins on the all-time list.
Williams, meanwhile, has safeguarded his place as the fifth most successful player ever by moving onto the landmark of 20 – a source of immense pride for the Welshman having gone just shy of seven years without a victory on the circuit prior to his emotional Northern Ireland Open crowning.
The record number of 36 held by Stephen Hendry, once an apparently unbreakable target, now is within reach for O’Sullivan in particular as he stands just four behind the great Scot.
Of course, snooker’s Trinity will soon turn their attention to the sport’s blue riband “Marathon of the Mind” and the World Snooker Championship in April and May at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
They have already amassed 11 world crowns between them – and an unbelievable 33 Triple Crown events that also encompasses the UK Championship and the Masters – but clearly they will believe after the heroics of this season that they can launch another assault on the big one.
Whether that eventuality materialises or not is largely irrelevant, though, as their legendary status as snooker’s triad of unrivalled talents has been written in stone – again, and again, and again.