The Enigma of Ronnie

Around this time last year, Ronnie O’Sullivan was being touted by World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn as the sport’s flag-bearer for the new era.

However, as has been the case on frequent occasions throughout Ronnie’s career his mentality drifted, resulting in him missing a succession of tournaments throughout the 2010/11 campaign.

Worse yet, the former world number one threatened to pull out of the World Championship in April leading renewed speculation that the most naturally talented player snooker has ever witnessed may finally quit the game.

Of course, we have heard this rash suggestion from O’Sullivan on many occasions before but his head and state of mind did appear to be at a particularly low point before The Crucible in Sheffield.

However, since then the three-time world champion has had sessions with sports psychologist Steve Peters and Ronnie’s frame of mind and attitude toward the game has improved drastically.

O’Sullivan won the first Players Tour Championship event of the new season when he whitewashed Joe Perry in the final in June and has since reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals of two more PTC tournaments.

Yes, he did pull out of the inaugural Australian Open due to what some believe to be a feigned neck injury but, in fairness, he had made half of the trip around the world before turning back so these accusations are unlikely to be true on this occasion.

This turnaround in fortunes has coincided with O’Sullivan’s interaction with social media outlet Twitter – something he admits helps him express himself more freely to his fans.

Sometimes his rants on Twitter can go overboard to the amusement of most reading them but, in general, his thoughts are genuine.

Because of this, snooker fans, pundits and the media are able to connect with Ronnie’s complex mind in a way that I don’t think was ever possible before.

O’Sullivan, who fired in a record-breaking eleventh 147 break on Friday during the Paul Hunter Classic, freely admits that his priorities can be in a jumble but hopes that he has turned a corner in his life and attitude towards a sport he still ultimately has immense passion for.

“Good weekend of snooker for me…To be honest, I was more pleased with my attitude, than anything else. I am enjoying playing, even when I’m not my best, that’s massive for me, I can see myself playing for the next 10 years in this mood.”

“It’s all about the mind now, learning to handle the not so good times is the key to success…Some do it better than others, I’m learning. I have to share how I’m feeling with you all, I think sometimes I have been misunderstood, so twitter is good to reach out to you all…”

It is important for Ronnie’s allegiance, or himself for that matter, not to get too far ahead of themselves.

The snooker community, whether they love him or hate him, has been here countless times before and there is no guarantee whether or not he will be in a positive place in six months, let alone ten years.

However, it is important to enjoy him in this mood while he is actually there because people are quick to attack him when he is down.

O’Sullivan is an enigma, a genius, a player that comes along only once in a generation and maybe even not that often.

Snooker doesn’t need Ronnie to succeed as a global sport – that is with absolute certainty.

But what is equally of absolute certainty is that the sport would be a poorer and ever so slightly less interesting merry-go-round without him.

Ironically, a first test of his new-found patience will be undertaken next week with the second major ranking event of the season – the Shanghai Masters.

O’Sullivan withdrew from the event last year as defending champion in a time when his opinion of himself and his profession was arguably at its lowest.

With that said, it will be interesting to see which Ronnie, if any Ronnie, turns up in China in seven day’s time.

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