Anthony Hamilton recalls ‘crazily good’ Ronnie O’Sullivan practice sessions

Ronnie O’Sullivan can be the consummate professional (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan is the best player to practice against, not just for the ridiculously high standard he can produce, but for his etiquette and dedication, says Anthony Hamilton.

The Rocket and the Sheriff of Pottingham used to practice together at the start of their careers at the Ilford Snooker Club, which was a hotbed for rising amateur stars and professionals alike.

The two veterans used to slug it out on the baize in east London, and while O’Sullivan may have gone on to win six World Championships and Hamilton has picked up just one ranking title, the sessions were of epic proportions.

The Rocket even used to avoid the Sheriff ahead of big events because these practice matches could be so one-sided that he wasn’t getting enough table time.

When that story was put to Hamilton, he told ‘I didn’t think it was true but it turns out that he [Ronnie] reckons he would swerve me from time-to-time before big tournaments, because he wanted a bit more table time.

‘I didn’t know this because he obviously wasn’t phoning me up saying, “I would be coming in but I’ve got a big tournament coming up.”

‘He has said that, but he also exaggerates as well because he says that I always beat him and that’s not the case, trust me.

‘This was back in the old days, 20 years back at Ilford, he used to pop in twice a week and we had some real good sessions, he’d win 60% but I think 40% is a healthy number to be winning.

Hamilton has fond memories of the Ilford Snooker Club in its pomp (Picture: Getty Images)

‘The standard at the time was crazily good. One day I’d win 10-2 and make six centuries, the next day he’d beat me 10-1 and make nine!’

The standard may have been brutal, but Hamilton only has positive memories of O’Sullivan, especially for how he conducted himself around the practice table.

‘They were good days and he’s the best guy to practice against,’ said Anthony. ‘The best counter, best tryer, most polite.

‘There’s unwritten rules about practice, even if you’re getting pumped you’ve still got to keep count and stuff like that. He’s brilliant for that, Ronnie, got to give him his due.

‘Some brilliant days back in the day, back in the early years there were about 32 pros playing there, it was mental!’

Hamilton has spoken before about the huge respect he has for his old practice partner as the Rocket can make the fiendishly difficult game look incredibly easy at times.

Asked whether he still has love for snooker after 30 years in the sport, Hamilton said: ‘Yeah I do, I do actually, I try and tell myself sometimes I don’t, but I do love the game.

‘There’s nothing more humbling than playing this game, the game always wins, it’s so hard,.

‘That’s why we revere Ronnie so much, because he makes this game look so easy.

‘If it was curling or something you couldn’t have the same admiration. Of course the best curler in the world is something special but there’s so many variations to this game, it’s unbelievable.’

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