By Fin Ruane
Tuesday saw an extraordinary statement released from World Snooker regarding Ronnie O’Sullivan’s withdrawal from the remainder of the snooker season.
I for one was truly astonished as I felt O’Sullivan was ready to resume his career at the UK Championship in York next month and continue on to Sheffield to defend his World title.
O’Sullivan has cited personal issues are behind his decision and no matter what way we look at it or indeed look at his many previous retirement hints I feel there is more in today’s statement than meets the eye.
It’s no secret he has and still continues to battle depression – I cannot begin to question how this terrible condition affects him but it’s clear O’Sullivan has now put his long-term mental health ahead of his snooker career.
I wrote a few weeks back at how much I felt O’Sullivan had matured as both a person and a player over the last few years and how much I was looking forward to seeing him return to the circuit but today’s statement will surely have tongues wagging as to what length of time he will now take away from the game.
O’Sullivan is a doting father to three young children and time spent away from his family at snooker tournaments obviously takes its toll on his already fragile well-being. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been better if O’Sullivan had taken the entire season away from the game after his success in Sheffield last May but I’m of the opinion that Ronnie actually loves the game so much that his planned return to the game after missing the first four months of this season may have come too soon hence his reason to withdraw from the International in Chengdu last week.
He has of course played and will continue to play in the Snooker Legends series, these exhibition nights are more suited to him as he’s away from home only for a night or two at a time, unlike jumping on a 16 hour flight to the other side of the world and facing the four walls of a hotel room night after night.
Some will question O’Sullivan’s decision and call it attention seeking whilst others will say it’s another disrespectful dig at the game. Even though Ronnie is the most naturally talented player the game has and will ever see he is, behind that persona, only human, and if he feels the need to step away from the sport then he should be applauded for his brave decision.
The game will miss him greatly there is no doubt of that, he is the leading star and the player everyone wants to watch. Snooker will move on, the game is currently in a good place and with the likes of Trump, Allen and Chinese sensation Cao Yupeng gaining headlines on the table snooker’s renaissance will continue on.
The question now on everyone’s lips is will the four-time world champ return to the game next season or has the curtain finally come down on the incredible natural snooker ability that is Ronnie O’Sullivan.