EDINBURGH snooker star Ross Muir will prepare for his 18th birthday this weekend by cueing up against world champion Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan on Friday in the Ruhr Open, a match televised on Eurosport.
The former Musselburgh Grammar pupil takes on the five-times world champion in the opening round of European Tour Event 5 in Germany. O’Sullivan himself turned professional at 16, winning his first ranking title a week before his 18th birthday.
Muir said: “Growing up I always enjoyed watching the World Championships on the TV and I was inspired by the likes of Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan. However, as difficult as it will be, I am just looking at it like any other match and I will just try and focus on the balls.”
Muir’s dream clash with O’Sullivan comes just a week after his stunning 4-3 victory over world No. 7 Ding Junhui in the last 32 of the Asian Tour Event 2. That triumph was all the more impressive as Muir beat the Chinese sensation in his own back yard just a week after he had won the Shanghai Masters.
“It was a strange atmosphere playing against a Chinese superstar in front of his own crowd where practically everyone watching wanted me to lose,” said Muir after holding his nerve to make a match-winning break of 80 for victory.
Muir, who wears a glove on his bridge hand, added: “Even when I won the match, there was hardly any applause. I have never had to deal with anything like that before, but I think the experience of the match will help me deal with similar situations in future matches and it has given me huge confidence.”
However, it could have been a different story for Muir. He said: “I was a goalkeeper for Salvesen boys club and I was scouted by Celtic at one time. I also loved playing pool and one day my dad suggested I try snooker. After that I just fell in love with the game and gave up football.”
Muir emerged as a promising snooker player from a young age. He hit his first tournament century just after his 12th birthday, won the Pontin’s Star of the future Under-14s event and continued his progress by winning Junior Pot Black at The Crucible in Sheffield and captained the Scotland Under-16s team to the Home International series, the first time Scotland had won the title since 1993.
Muir won several titles at Scottish Under-16 and Under-19 levels before taking the Scottish National title, one week before travelling to Sheffield where he came through five tough rounds of Q-School to clinch one of 12 Main Tour places up for grabs. That win guarantees his place on the world professional circuit for a minimum of two years.
Muir said: “It just happened so fast. One week I was playing in an amateur tournament at a local club and next minute I secured my place on the Main Tour and I was getting ready for my first professional tournament.”
Muir lost his first two matches as a professional but his first wins weren’t long in coming as he reached the third round of the Australian Open.
He said: “Overall, I am pleased about how I have started. I have learned a lot already and I have won a few matches and lost a few that went close where I could have won. Every match is tough and there is no such thing as an easy match. It is a dream come true to play on tour against my idols. It’s something I have always aspired to do. I’ve always wanted to be part of it; travelling the world, playing against great players and it doesn’t get any better.
“At the moment, I am just playing in every event I can. I’m not setting myself any targets in my first season. If I play to the best of my ability and give it everything I can, then I will win matches and if I do then progress up the rankings will hopefully take care of itself.”
Muir plays O’Sullivan on Friday at noon (1pm Central European Time).