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O’Sullivan lifts lid on ‘snooker depression’

Ronnie O'Sullivan. Photo credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire. Ronnie O'Sullivan. Photo credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
9:36 PM

Ronnie O’Sullivan has hinted his sabbatical from snooker could mean “the chapter’s over”.

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O’Sullivan announced yesterday that he will not compete again this season, a move attributed by his manager Django Fung to “Ronnie’s own personal problems, his health, travelling, children, family and so on” and one which casts doubt on whether he will be seen on the tour again.

And speaking on Ronnie O’Sullivan: Sports Life Stories, a pre-recorded documentary broadcast on ITV4 last night, the four-time world champion gave an insight into the emotional difficulties he has suffered during his career.

“The most important thing, the biggest love of my life, is my snooker,” he said. “I’ve never been so emotionally ingrained in something - in a person, an object, anything - as I have in snooker.

“I don’t think I suffered with depression, I don’t think I’m a depressed type of person - I just think I suffered a depression to do with snooker, and I just couldn’t handle it.

“I could go out and play, but take me out of there and I couldn’t do life. It was a nightmare, my life just felt like a bit of a nightmare.”

The problems came to a head in 2001, ahead of his first World Championship win.

“A week before that World Championship, I was down the doctor’s,” he said.

“Then I was in my room in Sheffield and they said ‘can you do a radio interview?’ I felt so brittle - I said yes, but I thought ‘how am I going to get through this, and not let them know that I’m suffering?’

“I was blabbering on, spurting words out, and it was live but I just said, ‘do you know what, I ain’t feeling too good. I’m suffering here, talking to you - I’m struggling’.

“I just thought, ‘I can’t hide any more’. I felt like I was going insane.”

The 36-year-old’s career has been peppered with regular threats to retire in recent years, but O’Sullivan admitted he was driven to continue by the pride of his father, who remained a key influence on his son’s career even while spending 17 years in prison for murder.

“I talked about letting go of it but I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t walk away because I hadn’t achieved what I wanted to,” O’Sullivan said.

“I knew if I stopped the snooker, a lot of my demons would be gone, but I couldn’t walk away.

“My dad said ‘every time I see you on the telly, it’s like a visit’. And he had 10 years left, so I had to play for at least another 10 years. I wanted to walk away, but there was that pressure there of trying to do the right thing for somebody else.”

Reflecting on a career which has brought him four UK and four World Championships among 24 ranking titles, he said: “I’ve got through it - that’s all I’ve done really.

“All right, I’ve been successful - I’ve ticked the boxes, I’ve won the world titles, won this, won that, become a multiple world champion.”

The most recent of those came in May of this year and, recalling the win and the emotional celebrations with his son Ronnie Jr, he said: “For me that’s like the final chapter.

“I’ve done what I’ve had to do. I don’t have to prove myself any more.

“The more they doubt me, the more it’ll make me want to come back and prove them wrong again, and I don’t want to have to go through it again.

“I’ve done it. The chapter’s over.”

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