Weekend Interview: Cue king Ronnie O’Sullivan at peace on and off table

Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates with his sixth Masters title. (Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire)
Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates with his sixth Masters title. (Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire)
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Ronnie O’Sullivan is widely regarded as the most talented man to ever hold a snooker cue in his mercurial hands.

Even before he turned professional in 1992, he was tipped for stardom, the child prodigy banging in his first century break aged 10, and his first maximum 147 at 15.

It was arguably a little slower than the world record five minutes and 20 seconds it took O’Sullivan to clear the table at the 1997 World Championship in Sheffield.

But the evidence was clear, emerging from an era when Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry had dominated, this young hopeful from Essex was destined for greatness.

Five world titles, seven Masters and five UK Championships – the first came when he was aged just 17 – hardly do his talent service.

Just as comfortable playing left-handed as he is right-handed, his rapid playing style and adventure around the table quickly attracted an army of supporters.

Ronnie O'Sullivan in action

Ronnie O'Sullivan in action

While Davis and Hendry grafted for their titles, the genius that is O’Sullivan seemed to breeze along on natural talent in the early years.

Off-table issues, dealing with depression, saw O’Sullivan work on his mental approach to snooker as he worked closely with sports psychiatrist Steve Peters.

Now, though, O’Sullivan is in a good place in his life, trimming down his hectic schedule on the World Snooker tour and looking forward to life when he finally hangs up his cue.

He has written his first novel, the excellent Framed, with a sequel coming out later this year called Double Kiss.

I’m into my fitness and running, love a bit of boxing too. I like cooking and eating out with friends and when I get real time off some track days are fun too.

Ronnie O’Sullivan

And he is often seen as a pundit on Eurosport, delivering his expert opinion on the game.

But what else occupies O’Sullivan’s days, when his waistcoat and dickie bow are hanging in the wardrobe?

“I’m into my fitness and running, love a bit of boxing too,” O’Sullivan told The Yorkshire Post.

“I like cooking and eating out with friends and when I get real time off some track days are fun too.”

Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Ronnie O'Sullivan.

When writing Framed, O’Sullivan drew on personal experiences, on life growing up in snooker halls.

The main character is called Frankie James, who runs a family snooker club in Soho, after his mother disappears when he was 16 and his father is in jail for armed robbery.

Set against the backdrop of London gangsters, and the battle to save his younger brother, it is fast-moving and you can almost inhale the smoke with its well-penned narrative.

So is writing something he enjoys, and can we expect more books in the future?

“Definitely and I have got the second one in the Framed series coming out in November, it’s called Double Kiss.

Framed is all about a snooker player really, its based around me and my childhood.”

O’Sullivan’s battles with depression throughout his life are well-documented. Over the years he appears to have lost games to the demons in his head, rather than his opponent sat across the table.

He revealed that he spent several days in a London hospital last year, after having a breakdown during the World Championship in Sheffield.

That emotional rollercoaster is hard to imagine, but O’Sullivan has learned how to cope with the highs, and the lows.

“I love a breakdown,” he joked in an interview with BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire.

“I’m so used to dragging myself up from a low. I’ve done it all my life.

“Sometimes I know that once I get to the bottom I’m just going to fly up again.

“I’ve managed to even myself out.

“The low doesn’t bother me, because I’ve been so low I know I can come out of it. I don’t worry so much.

“It’s just the chance to respond or what not.

“It’s always been the way with me, so I don’t worry about it like some people would.”

O’Sullivan returns to Sheffield, the scene of his five world titles, on October 7 for an evening show, called A Sporting Life Story, with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Swapping the Crucible for Bramall Lane, O’Sullivan will recall the highs and lows in his glittering career, with footage on giant screens of some of his magical moments.

Then fans will get the chance to hold a Q&A with the Rocket – whose 1993 UK Championship win, aged 17 years and 358 days makes him the youngest player ever to win a ranking tournament – before a meet and greet with guests.

“I am really looking forward to the event in Sheffield,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s going to be a great night.”

O’Sullivan holds numerous records: the most competitive century breaks with 863, the most ratified maximum breaks in professional competition (13) and for the three fastest competitive maximum breaks, the quickest of which was compiled in five minutes and 20 seconds.

So does he think that last one will be bettered?

“I don’t know,” he pondered. “Eventually all records get broken so I’m sure it will, but let’s hope it’s not too soon!”

Sheffield holds plenty of great memories for O’Sullivan, and is a city he enjoys spending time in.

But after 25 years of making the trek up the M1 from Essex, what is his stand-out moment at the Crucible?

“Probably 2012, winning with little Ronnie there on the back of a poor season,” he said.

O’Sullivan – then 36 – was joined on the main stage by his son, Ronnie Jr, after beating Ali Carter 18-11 in the final.

Along the way he had seen off the challenge of Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson.

“It was the best I’ve played at the world champs for sure.”

On that special moment between father and son, O’Sullivan explained at the time: “It was the best. I didn’t think I’d ever get the opportunity to share those moments with him so it was so nice to have him here.

“I got a bit emotional before the match was over, it felt like just me and him in the whole arena.

“There was just this massive connection between me and him, the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”

While O’Sullivan will be back in Sheffield in October, he will not be a stranger to Yorkshire.

The English Open is being held for the first time in Barnsley in October, before the UK Championship returns to York the following month.

Then the big one, the World Championship at the Crucible next April as O’Sullivan looks to add to his five world titles.

Davis has six, while Hendry has seven, so can O’Sullivan – he will be 42 when he returns to the Crucible – match or even better the Scot’s record haul.

“That’s a big ask, 17 days in Sheffield is a long time to survive,” he admitted. “There’s lots of good players about now but I’ll give it a go for sure.”

For a player who has never been afraid of anything put before him on a snooker table, you would expect no less.

A Sporting Life Story, with Ronnie O’Sullivan is on October 7 at Bramall Lane. For further information go to www.rm-events.co.uk or by calling 07717502480