Will Ronnie O’Sullivan break away from top UK events in favour of China?

Ronnie O’Sullivan anticipates paring down his tournament appearances in the United Kingdom as he would prefer to devote the overwhelming majority of his schedule to competing in China.

Ronnie O'Sullivan: China calling.
Ronnie O'Sullivan: China calling.

O’Sullivan, who sidestepped questions about whether he will defend his UK Championship title next month, started his season by winning the Shanghai Masters for a third successive year.

The invitation-only event features many of the world’s best players and lasts for only a week, which clearly appeals to the five-time world champion.

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O’Sullivan said: “I like the city, I like the promoters and I just enjoy that sort of format; just 16 top players so every match feels like a final. I enjoy those events more than some of the other ones.

“I’ll probably play more of the China events now because they’re the big events and I really enjoy travelling to the place.

“I can’t do it all so as long as I qualify for the China events, 80 per cent of my tournaments are probably there, and I’ll probably play the odd few in the UK.”

O’Sullivan is set to feature in the English Open in Crawley this week but when asked whether he will be at any of the Triple Crown events – the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship – he was coy.

He added: “I really haven’t scheduled what I’m going to play in at the moment. I’ll decide nearer the time.

“I’d love to play a full schedule but I just couldn’t do it, I’d never be at home and I’d be living out of a suitcase.

“Sometimes you have to look at the end of it and think ‘is the prize worth the effort?’ For me, it’s not so I choose to play minimum events because it’s something for me to do.

“If I win a tournament then great but if I don’t then it’s no big deal. I think it’s more important that I enjoy and have a balanced schedule.”

O’Sullivan’s success in Shanghai ensured the continuation of a staggering record in which he has won at least one title in every season since 1993-94.

The 43-year-old – speaking to promote ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan’s American Hustle’, which premieres on Blaze on Monday, November 11 – thinks he could go on playing for a decade or even longer, as long as he remains near the top of his profession.

The world No 2 said: “With me now, it’s just about playing as much as I can, just enjoying what’s left of my career. How long that is, I don’t know. It could be five years, it could be 10 years, it could be 15 years.

“I’ve kind of surprised myself, really, so I’ve stopped trying to have a plan and just accept that every year is a bonus.

“If I didn’t feel like I could win tournaments, I would probably stop because I haven’t got to that point yet where I’m happy to lose.

“There’s going to come a time where I might get on the start line and think I’m maybe 10th favourite to win a tournament, where I’m relying on nine people to get beat for me to win a tournament.

“Maybe that would be the time where I probably think about turning it in. But at the moment, I don’t see it that way.

“There are a few of us at the top that are sharing victories so as long as every time I’ve got my hat in the ring, I’ve got half a chance then I’ll keep going.”