Masters 2022: Snooker’s Class Of 1992 Still Thrilling Crowds And Winning Titles

Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams all had tournament successes over the last 12 months
14:55, 12 Jan 2022

All three of snooker’s famous Class of 1992 of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams have at one time or another threatened to retire, or hinted they have seriously contemplated quitting. 

Those moments have come during periods of poor form, in the aftermath of demoralising defeats, or stemmed from general infuriation over the way an infernal game makes them feel. But thank god they persevered at those crisis points. 

Because here they all still are, the trio of 46-year-olds. Competing. Winning. Entertaining. And for a week in mid-January of 2022 gathered together yet again at the Masters, the prestigious invitation tournament back at Alexandra Palace after a year in Milton Keynes, and reserved exclusively for the world’s top 16 players of which all three stubbornly remain such a significant part. 

These are not players slipping quietly away into the snooker sunset in their 30th seasons as professionals, as all three had tournament successes in 2021. Williams won the British Open and the Pro Series, also getting to the final of the Championship League.  

Higgins won the Players Championship with a spectacular week’s displays, giving up just four frames, beating Mark Selby for the loss of only seven points, and thrashing O’Sullivan 10-3 in the final. But he also reached an astonishing five other big finals including four in the early part of the current season alone. Even without a trophy, he is the player of the current campaign to date.

John Higgins
John Higgins

And as for O’Sullivan, the six-time world champion suffered what by his lofty standards was almost a title drought after winning the delayed Betfred World Championship in the summer of 2020. The Rocket then started misfiring in finals, not a feature of his career to that point, and lost five in a row including three in 2021.  

But that run was emphatically ended at the World Grand Prix where he edged out Neil Robertson 10-8 in the final in December at the Coventry Building Society Stadium. 

Talking last year about the players he started off competing against as juniors and then joined the pro ranks with in 1992, O’Sullivan said: “My biggest two rivals have been Higgins and Williams. We’re very different. Me and Williams have got more of a shot-making style. 

“We make the game up as we go along while Higgins is more in the style of Steve Davis. Very robotic, tough to play against and can tie you up in knots. It’s weird because John plays well against me, I play well against Williams, but he plays well against John. It is almost like our styles contrast. If I could use Mark Williams’ style against John Higgins, I’d probably get a lot more success against him.” 

The way things panned out at this year’s Masters Scot Higgins was lined up for another clash with Williams in the quarter-finals – their 64th career clash. And the Welshman has handed Higgins a couple of painful beatings in the last few years, including the world final in 2018, and then again at the Crucible in 2021. 

Higgins said of meeting Williams again in front of a packed 2,000-plus house at the Masters at Ally Pally this year: “It’s special. To play them, Ronnie or Mark, in an arena like this, the crowd are amazing. I heard both of them saying it’s the best atmosphere, this is the best one I’ve played in. Roll on Thursday night and hopefully we can put on a good show.

Mark Williams
Mark Williams

“I can’t speak for the other two guys, but when I go out and I’m across from Mark and Ronnie, there’s a sense of now you’re proud that you’re still there, you’re still competing. You look round, you see their families – and you have seen those families grow up. I look up to those guys, they’re two amazing players.” 

Williams said recently: “People go on about the Class of 1992, and put my name in but I get embarrassed. I’d rather not get talked about in the same breath as them two because they’re the best two players I’ve ever seen in my life. 

‘All the tournaments I’ve won, I’ve had to nick them off John, Ronnie and Stephen Hendry, or 90 per cent of them. So I’m more than proud of the ones I’ve nicked and won, but I just cringe at the Class of ’92 thing. Please don’t mention me in them two’s bracket, for goodness sake. I cringe. I could never put myself anywhere near them pair.” 

It is fair to say that no one in snooker is really having that about Williams, least of all Higgins against whom he has so often raised his game to sublime levels. 

During the Masters, Williams put a picture on social media of himself and Higgins as kids at a junior tournament. It was a timely reminder of just how long these three have been locking horns. Long may it continue.

O'Sullivan is 4/1 to win the 2022 Masters with Betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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