Ronnie O’Sullivan says he could never call himself “the greatest”, despite matching two snooker records by winning the UK Championship on Sunday.
O’Sullivan, 42, equalled Steve Davis’ tally of six UK titles and Stephen Hendry’s record of 18 victories in ‘Triple Crown’ events – the UK and World Championships, and Masters.
Davis said he was one of Britain’s “greatest sporting personalities”.
But O’Sullivan said “it is for other people to make statements like that”.
‘The Rocket’ beat Shaun Murphy 10-5 in York to claim his third ranking title of the season, hitting three centuries to take his career total to 916.
Davis, now a BBC Sport pundit, said: “I am delighted to be in the company of Ronnie O’Sullivan.
“On his day, he is not just the most mercurial and most amazing talent we have ever seen, he is also one of the greatest winning machines we have had.”
O’Sullivan – a five-time world champion – is now just five adrift of Hendry’s 36 ranking titles and heads to the Masters in January as the defending champion.
“The milestones I have reached are all good, and six UKs and 18 majors is testament to how long I have been in the sport and persevered at it. They are great records to have,” he told BBC Sport.
“I could never say: ‘I am the greatest.’ That is not in my personality. I am just pleased I put in some great performances over the years.
“I would say there have been 10 or 12 tournaments where I have played unbelievably well and been more proud of the way I played. That is something that will stick with me more than records.”
‘Ronnie will beat Hendry’s total’
Murphy, who saw his opponent reel off five straight frames from 5-5, said O’Sullivan “could easily” still be competing at the top in 10 years’ time.
The 35-year-old added: “In the modern era – where the standard is vastly better than the heydays of the ’80s and ’90s – to still be competing and winning majors, is a massive feather in his cap.
“He is the best player we have ever seen. Whilst he keeps enjoying it, we will have the pleasure of watching him for years to come.”
Asked by BBC Sport if O’Sullivan can beat Hendry’s record of ranking events, Murphy said: “Easily. He will eclipse it and get to 1,000 centuries as well.”
But can he match Hendry’s seven world titles?
In terms of world titles, O’Sullivan trails Hendry’s all-time record by two.
Davis is not convinced his fellow Englishman can match the Scot, saying: “When you see him in this form, he’s not going to go off the boil. I think he’s got two or three more years.
“As long as he’s focused, he’s going to be there fighting. I think a thousand centuries is nailed on, and I think somewhere down the line perhaps even another World Championship.
“There are lot of great players in the game who will have their say, but Ronnie O’Sullivan in good form – not even at his best – can still win events. It’s astonishing how well he still plays.”
‘Snooker keeps me focused’
O’Sullivan’s maiden major victory came in the UK event 24 years ago at the age of 17 years and 358 days – the youngest winner of a ranking event.
In 2006, he showed fragility which dogged him throughout his career by walking out of a UK Championship match against Hendry.
O’Sullivan has won 30 non-ranking titles in his 25-year career and made more maximum 147 breaks (13) than any other player.
He said: “Snooker keeps me focused and disciplined. It keeps me out of trouble and a good thing to have in my life. It is something I keep doing as it stabilises me in many ways and gives me a purpose in life.
“I follow all sports, and anyone who has been at it for many years – like boxer Floyd Mayweather and darts player Phil Taylor – you have to admire their tenacity.”