RONNIE O’SULLIVAN is backing John Higgins to burst the Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby bubble and end his three years of ranking event hurt.

The Wizard of Wishaw last scooped silverware at the 2018 Welsh Open and has endured a turbulent couple of seasons on the hectic snooker circuit.

The four-time world champion is a 30-time ranking event winner but O’Sullivan, a six-time Crucible king, holds the record with a thrilling 37 tournament titles since 1993.

O’Sullivan admits it won’t be easy for the Scot but reckons he, Higgins and three-time world champion Mark Williams – all 45 – still have the talent to win trophies once again.

“I think definitely, [Mark] and John Higgins can still win titles,” said O’Sullivan ahead of Higgins’ Masters clash against Mark Allen on Wednesday.

“But it is going to be really hard. The top three are there and are probably going to win 60 or 70 per cent of the tournaments they play in, that we all play in.

“So it only leaves those other opportunities. And you’ve got Mark Allen, Ding Junhui, Barry Hawkins, Stuart Bingham, a lot of players, and they’re going to win tournaments as well.

“If you’re an exceptional player you can probably do what [John] Higgins and [Mark] Williams have done, which is compete, but it’s still downhill for them.

“They’re still not the players that they were, yet they were so good that even their B or C game is allowing them to compete and allowing them to have the odd good tournament.

“But to do it week in, week out, they just don’t have the physical powers of recovery – and myself included – to be able to be able to do it week in, week out and mentally be strong enough to hold it together match after match.”

Higgins will face Champion of Champions Allen in the first round of the Masters and is bidding for a third tournament title – and a first in 15 years.

The Scot reigned supreme at Wembley in 1999 and 2006 but is yet to complete a treble despite reaching three semi-finals since 2009.

This year’s event was due to be held in front of fans at Alexandra Palace but a surge in coronavirus cases means the tournament will now be held behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.

The Covid-secure Marshall Arena has been the venue for all of this season’s tournaments as Higgins, also a three-time UK champion, has only progressed past the fourth round on a single occasion.

He reached the semi-finals of the English Open in October but slumped to premature second round defeats at the recent Scottish Open and World Grand Prix.

Despite soaring to Crucible glory last summer, O’Sullivan is also yet to claim silverware this season as Trump, Robertson and Selby have scooped a total of six ranking event titles between them.

The Rocket reckons Higgins’ power of recovery aren’t what they used to be and admits once a player hits their mid-40s, they enter terminal decline.

“At 37, I felt as good as I’d ever done and at 38, even at 40, I felt great. [Also at] 41 or 42, but I’ve got to be honest, the last 18 months I just can’t recover physically from one tournament to the next,” added seven-time Masters champion O’Sullivan, who will face three-time UK champion Ding Junhui on Wednesday.

“I just don’t and I just get mentally tired – and I’m quite strong mentally. You can say you can still do it, but the body doesn’t allow you to.

“It used to be 33 or 34 for a snooker player but I think now it’s maybe early 40s [the end of your peak].

“After that, you’re definitely on a decline. I don’t care who you are, once you hit 42 or 43 there’s only one way for you, and that’s down.”

Watch the London Masters live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from Jan 10