Ahead of the upcoming World Championship, let’s have a look at how the top 16 seeds have been getting on during the interrupted 2019/20 campaign.
He’ll always be considered as a pre-tournament favourite, but it’s fair to say that Ronnie O’Sullivan’s season hasn’t been one of his best.
After two hugely successful years in which he broke multiple records and regained the number one position in the world rankings, O’Sullivan has struggled to produce his top form this term.
A return of one tournament victory, another final appearance, and four other runs beyond the quarter-final stage of events would represent a pretty respectable period for most players on the Main Tour – especially when the number of overall events entered is taken into consideration.
But O’Sullivan is known for style and silverware, and the 44 year-old has been somewhat lacking in both areas during the 2019/20 campaign.
The five-time world champion has conjured up moments of brilliance, but unusually for him his consistency has been one of the main problems.
Success in the elite-field Shanghai Masters in his first outing of the season masked any immediate concerns, but his failure to win a ranking tournament has become a noticeable obstacle to overcome.
Whether O’Sullivan is feeling the pressure of toppling Stephen Hendry’s career ranking tally record, if it’s the emergence of rival Judd Trump as a dominant force, or it’s simply his age finally catching up with him, something hasn’t been clicking into gear.
O’Sullivan has played in only half of the events, including making the strange decision to skip the prestigious Masters in London, so that could also be a factor.
Unexpected losses to the likes of Mei Xiwen, Dominic Dale, and Graeme Dott derailed his challenge early on in the English Open, World Open, and World Grand Prix respectively.
That being said, there is the counter argument that O’Sullivan’s game could be one of the best-suited to this year’s unique edition of the World Championship.
The seeds will all be relatively cold after months – except for last month’s Tour Championship – of competitive inactivity.
O’Sullivan boasts the kind of natural talent and cocky charisma that could see him hit the table running while simultaneously instilling fear into his opponents.
The Englishman has not performed well at the Crucible Theatre since squandering a large lead in the 2014 final to Mark Selby when bidding for a sixth world title and third on the trot.
He has frequently let outside factors overwhelm him since, so the set-up in 2020 – with possibly no crowd and probably fewer media in attendance too – could help him to maintain his focus.
O’Sullivan has Ding Junhui, Stuart Bingham, and Mark Williams for company in his quarter of the draw – three players who he enjoys vastly superior head-to-head records against.
With reigning champion Trump on the opposite side of the draw, the stage could be set for the final showdown that a lot of people want to see.
It might have been a disappointing year, but Ronnie O’Sullivan’s season will still be defined by what happens in the next month or so.