By Andrew Atkinson

Ronnie O’Sullivan is still potting balls on snooker’s green baize over a decade after telling me he’d rather be potting plants than snooker balls.

O’Sullivan, in the final of the Tour Championship in Llandudno this weekend, was talking about potting plants during a moment of uncertainty about his future during the UK Championship at Preston Guild Hall almost two decades ago.

I was reporting for the Mail on Sunday, a story billed as an exclusive.

O’Sullivan, 43, who beat Judd Trump 10-9 in the Tour semi-final will become the oldest world number one since Ray Reardon in 1983 if he takes the title.

O’Sullivan who last led the world rankings in 2010, who has threatened to quit many times, will meet Neil Robertson or Mark Allen in the final which starts on Saturday in Wales.

“I’m knocking on and I’m not sure there’s going to be too many of them. There’s very few people that have been the best in the world and the greatest at what they’ve done, so I feel like I’m in that bracket,” said O’Sullivan.

“Maybe there’s eight billion people on this planet. How many can say they are the greatest at what they’ve done?

“For me, I’ve had the ultimate experience of being the king of my sport and I’m still fighting and still punching and I’m proud of that in many ways,” said O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan holds the record for the most victories, 19, in the Triple Crown tournaments being the Masters, UK Championship and World Championship.

O’Sullivan, one victory away from equalling Stephen Hendry’s record of 36 ranking titles, said: I’m just not driven by records.

“I don’t buy into that sort of stuff as you take the beauty out of the game and it all becomes about statistics.”

In the pending years since the ‘plants’ quote everything has come up roses for Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“It’s just for the experiences, the love and the highs that I’ve had from playing this game since I was a kid. You can’t buy that,” said O’Sullivan.