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ronnie on fatherhood, motivation, loving the game, his peers

Postby Monique ...
How being a father has given tough-guy Ronnie O'Sullivan a soft side
Matt Majendie

Snooker will undergo its most dramatic overhaul of the Barry Hearn revolution at the O2's Indigo Arena on Saturday with Power Snooker, the green baize's answer to Twenty20.

Points rather than frames will decide each half-hour encounter at an event complete with blaring music and Page Three models, and where the poster boy of the whole show will be Ronnie O'Sullivan.

It was O'Sullivan who was called upon to make the draw for the competition and, as arguably the game's only true remaining character, Hearn will rely heavily on snooker's most talked-about player to bring the ailing sport kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

For O'Sullivan's part, he is genuinely excited. “I really like the concept and I love the idea of playing in London at the 02,” he said. “Hopefully, it suits my game better than the others. It's difficult to make predictions but it's going to be an exciting event to watch. It will show snooker in a different light and the sport desperately needs that.”

For the three-time world champion, the key to its success lies in snooker discovering new personalities.

“There's definitely a lack of characters now,” said The Rocket. “With a lot of players years ago, you could really see what they went through and I think people could relate to that. Nowadays, players can be robotic making 100-plus breaks all the time and I think maybe fans want to see something else. I don't know what but something different to just potting balls.

“The problem is that today players just desperately don't want to lose and it can come across that they're not actually enjoying snooker. If you see someone enjoying it, you can relate to that and think I want to watch that'.

“Barry Hearn is trying to change that. I think he wants what they have on
X-factor. Okay, not the singing but the situation where you get to know the performers, and you start to like certain characters. I think snooker fans would love to have someone like James Hunt with a bit of comedy and character.”

O'Sullivan knows he has a responsibility to help return snooker to its 80s heyday when a staggering 18.5 million people tuned in to watch Steve Davis take on Dennis Taylor in the 1985 World Championship Final.

Prior to our interview, it is made clear that O'Sullivan only plans to talk about Power Snooker and his Future Stars project, aimed at bringing British talent up through the system. But once he gets going, the 34-year-old waxes lyrical on everything from his family life to John Higgins' return to the game after the match-fixing allegations.

Four years before his first world title, O'Sullivan became a dad with the arrival of Taylor-Ann in 1997. However, it was the birth of his two other children — Lily, who is now four, and Ronnie, three — and the split from their mother Jo Langley in 2008 after an eight-year relationship, that made him reassess his life.

He said: “My favourite time is with my kids — it really is the best feeling in the world. I'm not with my partner any more and I've had to go through the courts to be with the kids, and it's something that had to be done. But I made the decision that if I never potted another ball to be with my kids then that would be okay as they have to come first. Don't get me wrong, I've always loved snooker and will always love the game but it's just I've changed my priorities.”

O'Sullivan believes being a more hands-on parent has affected his game and that he will never again be the player that could seemingly win every tournament just by turning up.

“I was at my best when I was completely dedicated to snooker and doing everything I needed to do,” he said. “In the last two years, I've not had the same dedication, so there's not the same burning desire to tough out games.

“If I'm there and I fancy it, I still feel I can be unbeatable. I still feel I can always make the quarters or semis but now, if someone brings their A-game, they'll punish me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to pack up and start working in Tesco. I still get that buzz when I'm playing well it's just in the past I think I won tournaments I didn't deserve to win. That doesn't really happen any more.”

O'Sullivan describes life as good but it hasn't always been. His father recently came out of prison after serving 18 years for a murder conviction, while his mother has also served time behind bars for tax evasion.

Then there's the battle with depression, which he is currently winning —“life's good, well I feel good 95 per cent of the time”. O'Sullivan credits his mostly positive outlook not to medication or the psychiatrist's couch but, quite simply, to running.

He has got obsessed to the extent that he can run a half-marathon in 85 minutes and his idols are no longer Jimmy White or Ray Reardon but Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba, the 5000metres and 10,000m Olympic champion, with whom he got to run back in February.

“Meeting her and getting to run with her was amazing and I've since been invited to Ethiopia by her,” he said with child-like excitement. “But I'm not that fit at the moment and I'm probably only doing about 30 miles a week compared to 50 at my peak. Running's legal high, and it's definitely helped the depression with the natural endorphins released when you're running.”

By the evening of our interview, he has twice been out running that day. “It's good to have a different hobby away from the game and mine just so happens to be a healthy one,” he said.

Snooker, though remains his first sporting love despite interviews in which he regularly seems to be on the verge of quitting.

“The problem with those interviews is that they're just after I've lost,” he said. “I talk a bit of nonsense at the time and don't tend to feel the same way later in the day.”

O'Sullivan, has no doubt that the greatest player he has faced is Stephen Hendry, and he still talks about the seven-time world champion with a certain degree of awe.

“He is still phenomenal — the best out there when you watch him in practice but for some reason he hasn't quite converted that in matches,” said O'Sullivan. “The first time I saw him play — I think he was 15 — I went back to my dad and said this Hendry guy's the absolute geezer. Everyone was like no Ronnie that's Steve Davis' but I was proved right in the end wasn't I?”

O'Sullivan, not known for lavishing praise on his peers, also has nothing but respect for reigning world champion Neil Robertson. He said: “Neil's had some tough times but he's such a great cueist and has such a great attitude, and he believed he was capable of beating everyone and was proved right.”

Robertson will line up alongside O'Sullivan at the O2 but there will be no place for Higgins as he bids to return to the sport following his very high-profile fall from grace. Higgins, while cleared of match-fixing claims, was given a six-month ban for failing to report an illegal approach made to him to discuss throwing frames.

His punishment ends next month and O'Sullivan warned: “Listen, it's going to be difficult for John. It's not nice for him to have gone through what he did. People can make their own mind up about John but the fact is that no bets were placed on the match in question. He's been punished and it's right he's coming back. Once he finds his feet, he'll get right back up there again. He's too good a player but it will be tough with that cloud over him. The top results will come his way again.”

For his part, O'Sullivan is confident he can get back to winning ways on Saturday.

Not much new but still very nice to read.

Re: ronnie on fatherhood, motivation, loving the game, his p

Postby Wildey

Surprisingly and something of a rarity these days regarding power snooker interviews changing the sport was not even brought up.

i like where he said "Nowadays, players can be robotic making 100-plus breaks all the time and I think maybe fans want to see something else. I don't know what but something different to just potting balls."

maybe that is why he does come over wrong in TV Interviews sometimes he is trying to give something different to just potting balls and possibly trying to hard to be a character .

but it also shows that ronnie doesn't think quickening the game up and potting ball after ball after ball is the answer .