Jordan Brown is hoping to prove Ronnie O’Sullivan wrong in the Welsh Open final after saying the Rocket’s comments at the World Championship were ‘annoying’ and ‘didn’t go down well’ with him.
Brown has spectacularly upset the odds to reach the final at Celtic Manor, beating Mark Selby in the quarters and then Stephen Maguire in the semi-finals to set up the clash with the Rocket on Sunday.
While the Northern Irishman has been springing surprises, O’Sullivan has been progressing as serenely as expected, dropping just two frames on his path to the final, although that did include a quarter-final bye.
Brown is thrilled to be taking on the man he considers the greatest ever in the final, but he is also out with a point to prove to the world champion.
The Antrim Ferrari remembers O’Sullivan’s comments at the World Championship last year, when the 45-year-old said he would have to lose an arm and a leg to drop out of the world’s top 50.
O’Sullivan said at the Crucible: ‘People like me, John [Higgins] and Mark [Williams], you look at the younger players coming through, they’re not that good, really.
‘Most of them, they’d probably do well as half decent amateurs, not even amateurs, I mean, they’re so bad.
‘A lot of them you see now, you think, cor, I’ve probably got to lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50. So that’s really why we’re still hovering around still, just how poor it is down that end.’
Brown has huge respect for his opponent on Sunday, but he will not pretend that O’Sullivan’s comments didn’t sting as he scraps away to rise into the top 50 in the rankings.
The 33-year-old has never been in the top 50 in his career so far, and he, like other players down the rankings, took the Rocket’s comments as a slight.
‘He’s definitely the greatest ever, no doubt about it,’ said Brown after his semi-final victory. ‘The way he plays, his style of play, the way he scores, everything about him.
‘Maybe the only downside are his comments off the table, slandering the lower-ranked players didn’t go down well with me.
‘Maybe that spurred me on as well because I don’t think his comments are entirely true. He doesn’t realise there are so many players aspiring to be like him, he is the benchmark, the game isn’t as easy as what he makes it look.
‘It just put a bit of fire in my belly to prove him wrong. The top 50 stuff, it was really annoying, I’m not going to lie. That drove me on as well because those comments stick in your mind.’
Presented with Brown’s comments, O’Sullivan claims they were only intended to motivate lower-ranked players, so was delighted to hear that they had produced the desired results.
‘That’s what the comments were about, motivating people,’ said Ronnie. ‘So it had the right effect on Jordan, which is great.
‘He’s gone away, seen the positives of it, come back, become a better player and that’s what a lot of the other players should be looking at doing.
‘They should take it as a positive and a motivation to be better, because I certainly would.
‘Fire in the belly, mate. Every opponent needs a bit of fire in the belly. I need a bit of that myself.’
However, annoying Brown found O’Sullivan’s comments, he still has incredibly nice things to say about the six-time world champion and, before the second semi-final was played, declared that he’d rather play Ronnie than Mark Williams.
‘I’ve never played Ronnie,’ said Jordan. ‘Think I’ve only met him twice at exhibitions.
‘What can you say? He’s the ultimate, the greatest of all time, no doubt about that. He’s been entertaining us on our TV screens for the best part of 30 years and we’re just grateful to have him in the game and still entertaining the millions round the world.
‘Slight preference to Ronnie. Ronnie, in my opinion, is a slightly better player than Mark. If I play Ronnie it’s a fantastic, showpiece occasion for all my family and friends back home. It’s just a pity they can’t be here, but I’m in the final that’s all that matters.’
O’Sullivan is impressed that Brown fancied a crack at him in the final at Celtic Manor, although doesn’t think it is good news for his own chances.
‘It’s great, it’s not so great for me when you’re opponent says he’s really looking forward to playing you, you never want to hear them words,’ said the Rocket.
‘But he’s got a great temperament, just seems to play the balls. It’s a good attitude to have.’
Brown will certainly not shy away from the big challenges in the sport after a tough road to his first ever ranking final, which included working at a petrol station back home in Northern Ireland while he tried to balance practice and breaking onto the professional circuit.
Brown was briefly on tour in 2009 and only returned in 2018 but is now making serious progress as all his sacrifices become meaningful.
‘I had a lot of tough years because I was on the verge of quitting,’ he said. ‘I had a few problems off the table. I was working full-time in a petrol station and practicing full-time.
‘There were times I was going down the pub and drinking instead of practicing. Also I was working in the petrol station, getting up at 5.30 every morning.
‘To think about all that and thinking about now it is very emotional. Everything’s a lot better than working at the petrol station. This makes it all worthwhile.’
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