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Great Interview with Ronnie O'Sullivan

Postby Roland ... 981502.ece

A new year, a fresh start for Ronnie O’Sullivan; at least that is what he is telling himself as he slurps hot coffee in a snooker hall in Romford. A year when he learns to revel in the moment — the pre-match rush of fear, the thrill of overcoming his nerves, the acclaim of the crowd — rather than looking back with regret on all the tournaments he might have won.

A year when he does not beat himself into frustration over the shots he misses but is thankful for any bursts of the old brilliance, however infrequent.

“I want to feel positive and there’s a lot to be positive about,” says the man who has been through Prozac, to the Priory, and now runs long distances “to clear the debris” of his restless mind.

Top of the positives is the imminent release of his father this spring.

Sentenced to 18 years for stabbing to death an associate of the Kray brothers, Ron Sr is due to walk free in April, having spent the past year making regular visits home as part of his rehabilitation.

“Just to spend a day or three or four with him has been great,” O’Sullivan says. “It’s like having a new dad. It’s like when people are reborn and find God, and life’s amazing.”

So has he found God? “Leave it out,” O’Sullivan says, chuckling. “But when something is taken away and given back, you really appreciate it.

“It’s like that with my dad. And it’s like that when I’ve lost form. When it comes back, it’s, ‘Wow, you’re playing better than ever.’ You feel great, liberated. The shackles are off.”

O’Sullivan suddenly shifts uneasily, as if afraid that talking too much about his father’s release could put a jinx on it. But there is no denying that it will mark a huge moment in both of their lives.

“The Rocket” credits his father with being his biggest influence and one of sport’s most open, self-deprecating — and, notoriously, sometimes self-loathing — figures becomes defensive only when people suggest his own psychological problems arise from a troubled family history. “I’ve heard all that and it’s so far from the truth,” he says.

Already their brief spells together have brought shared moments of joy; particularly his father’s bafflement at modern gadgetry such as iPods, even the shape and workings of the modern car, after his long incarceration.

“He saw my car and was like, ‘Is that a spaceship?’ ” he says. “The last one before he went inside was some old SL 20 years ago. He’ll need time to readjust but he’s an intelligent bloke, he’ll get on.

“I’ve got so used to being this way for so long, but as he comes nearer the end of his sentence, these places [prisons] are more relaxed so he’s been able to watch telly, watch my matches. And that’s like an extra visit to him.”

Schooled at snooker by his father to the extent that he was racking up a century break by the age of 10, O’Sullivan is such a believer in the power of pushy parenting that he plans to become one himself. “Oh yeah, cos that’s what got me where I was,” he says. “I think you need someone to push you, you need to be instilled with the winning mentality. You can be made a winner.”

He has two small children, Lily and Ronnie Jr, and he already has plans for his son. “Hopefully my little boy can be a Wimbledon champion, F1 champion, or some sort of champion,” he says. “I would love him to be the next Tiger Woods.”

The golfer is perhaps not a role model many would choose after his recent public disgrace, but O’Sullivan is unrepentant. “I don’t see that he’s done anything wrong,” he says. “I just admire his golf. I know a lot of women out there might say different, but he’s a bloke, know what I mean?”

O’Sullivan, as you can tell, is in chirpy mood as he prepares to defend his title at the Masters, which begins tomorrow at Wembley Arena.

Contentment will never be something that he can take for granted given his battles with depression, but he is insistent that it will not be snooker that drags him down again.

He says that he has altered his expectations of what is possible over the rest of his career, to have accepted that his game will always come in “spells and spasms”.

Yes, he would love to add to his three world titles and, given his No 1 world ranking, he knows he is capable of doing so. But he wants his pursuit of titles to be something that gives pleasure rather than anguish, whether or not he is successful.

“If the old problems rear their ugly head, I’ve got to smile and say, ‘Come back next year’ — not smash a cue,” he says. “It was hurting, and I don’t want it to hurt.

“I’m 34 and I want to enjoy the game and enjoy life. I don’t want to feel that it overkills the end of my career, I don’t want to end it on a low.

“I’ll win tournaments when I am on my game, but this little Achilles’ heel that I’ve got, this inconsistency which I’ve tried to get the better of, I just can’t seem to do it. So I have come to the point where it is a case of more frustration over what’s left of my career, perhaps walk away from snooker or accept it and learn to manage it right.

“Learning to manage my emotions and expectations, that is the key thing.”

It is a worthy goal, but is it really possible for O’Sullivan to live easily with his failings, to abandon his pursuit of perfection — and to stop punishing himself when he falls short?

Everyone thinks he could have won more given the outrageous talent that once helped the Rocket to make a 147 at the World Championship in a little more than five minutes.

A genius? He winces at the word. “I don’t think I was ever a George Best or Alex Higgins,” he says. “I never had their talent. I’m certainly not the most talented player who has ever picked up a cue.

“That is something that is bandied around and I sometimes feel it is a heavy tag to carry when you know your play is based more round being a methodical player.

“The way I do it can be replicated, as it can be with, say, Steve Davis. We are more like machines. But Best, Higgins, you couldn’t coach someone to play like them, you can’t coach someone to play tennis like McEnroe. They had a lot of technical faults, like it wasn’t how you were meant to do it.”

This may all be part of O’Sullivan’s attempt to lower expectations, but, as always with him, the sentiments are delivered with apparent sincerity. While other sportsmen seek excuses, O’Sullivan faces up to his flaws and defeats with startlingly candid admissions. He used to pour out those thoughts to shrinks and sports psychologists, but now says his equilibrium comes from within. “It’s just words,” he says of going to therapy. “You can go off your head.”

So what is motivating him to try to win a fifth Masters? Love of the game, he insists, not chasing the money. Perhaps, but for the Masters he does have the backing of Premier Inn, whose sponsorship — it will give away 147 free rooms if he makes a perfect break — requires him to use a purple cue.

“It’s like they are baiting me with that 147 and I like a challenge,” he says. “When you are on for a 147, it’s like a cartoon character with the chest thumping in and out. You are frightened of stopping and thinking about it — at least I am.

“I’ve blown three or four. Oh, mate, on the green, the blue, the pink. Sometimes it lasts for about a year. I remember when I missed the pink, I wasn’t bothered at the time, but the next morning and every day for months that hurt me.”

Those days of beating himself up are supposed to be over. We will see.

Re: Great Interview with Ronnie O'Sullivan

Postby Roland

Next time you hear anyone moan about 147's not being special, remember to quote them that last paragraph.

Re: Great Interview with Ronnie O'Sullivan

Postby Wildey

they are defanatly special and lets get things in perspective Ronnie and Hendry has 9 apiece then its John Higgins on 5 only James Wattana has had 3 apart from those 3 great players so they not that common with only 69 in 28 years.

yes on the face of it it looks to be getting easier and yes splitting the pack on thinner cloths has made break building easier but the main change which hendry brought in to the game was a mindset of going after big breaks.

Re: Great Interview with Ronnie O'Sullivan

Postby Smart

Its a nice interview and for once we learn something new - on the subject of 147s. I think there will be a lot of media interest in how the 2 Rons handle the permanent release. Would be great if having his dad in the crowd or his dressing room inspired Ronster to even more greatness. It can work the other way though, time will tell. <ok>

Re: Great Interview with Ronnie O'Sullivan

Postby Wildey

yup it could be more pressure but i think the one major problam it will bring is Today Ronnie is a 34 year old man however Ronnie snr might want to control his life like when Ronnie was a kid and there might be conflict.