IF Tiger Woods had been handed a cue as a child or Roger Federer had swapped the tennis court for the green baize, they may have reached the heady heights of snooker’s Ronnie O’Sullivan.
And Shaun Murphy admits the talent of those two sporting legends mirrors the Rocket’s, who barely gave him a chance to sit down before storming to a 13-3 victory at the World Championship.
World No.5 Murphy took the early ascendancy in the quarter-final tie at the Crucible but, 2-0 up and poised to win the third frame, O’Sullivan battled back from a snooker down to spark his comeback.
Urmston-based Murphy could only muster one more frame as five-time champion O’Sullivan settled the clash with a session to spare – and he concedes he was the bit-part player in the Rocket’s exhibition.
“This is the very, very top level of our sport,” he said. “In golf it would be Woods or Rory McIlroy, in tennis it would be Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
“In our sport it’s O’Sullivan and every sliver of a chance you get you have to take them otherwise you lose. That’s how tough it is against O’Sullivan.
“We’re blessed and lucky to be in the era of Ronnie, we’re all privileged to be here witnessing somebody who’s that good at something.
“Playing him is very, very difficult and you feel as if you’re playing on his table – I didn’t cope with it very well. I started really well, it was just a shame it wasn’t a best-of-three.
“Two-and-a-half frames in, I was playing really well but momentum can change in an instant and a couple of missed pots in the first session cost me.
“In this match I’ve made at least 13, maybe 20, fatal errors. Against another player on another day I might still be in there playing but against O’Sullivan you’re going home.”
Murphy, the 2005 world champion at the Crucible in Sheffield, has now beaten O’Sullivan twice in 11 attempts and never in a ranking tournament.
The Rocket is aiming for his third successive world title this year and Murphy concedes he is no closer to cracking the 38-year-old’s game after witnessing another masterclass up close.
“I don’t know, it’s very, very difficult,” he added. “As I said before the match, it’s a great opportunity to watch and see where we’ve all got to improve as he is the benchmark.
“I’ve worked very hard on my game and I’ve got a list as long as my arm of things I’ve got to go and work on.
“You’ve got to hit Ronnie hard early to stand any chance, if not he’ll roll you over and you’re back across the Woodhead Pass home.”
British Eurosport is the Home of Snooker, showing 19 tournaments per season including the World Championship, UK Championship the Masters and all other ranking events. Available on Sky, Virgin Media & BT TV or online/mobile via eurosportplayer.com #eurosportsnooker