Sunday 21 January 2018

Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan returns for World Championship defence

Ronnie O’Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan

Paul Hirst

Ronnie O'Sullivan has ended his sabbatical from snooker and will defend his world championship this year, the Essex potter announced this afternoon.

O'Sullivan said in November that he would not compete for the rest of the season, ruling out another crack at the world championship this year, but he today went back on his decision.

The 37-year-old, appearing at a press conference in central London, said he will take part in the competition at the Crucible, which begins on April 20.

O'Sullivan, widely regarded as the most talented player in the sport, has played just once since winning his fourth world title last May - a drab loss to the unheralded Simon Bedford in Gloucester.

With the entry deadline for this season's World Championship falling on Thursday, speculation had intensified that he would call it a day for good, but he today announced his decision to carry on.

Five great Ronnie O’Sullivan moments

Ronnie O'Sullivan today confirmed he would defend his world title in April after all, ending his sabbatical from the sport.

Now aged 37, O'Sullivan has wowed snooker fans for over two decades with his on-baize brilliance and remains the game's most popular player.

He will now chase a fifth world title in Sheffield when the tournament starts in April and here, Wayne Gardiner looks at some of the most memorable moments provided by the 'Rocket'.

(1) 1997: Fastest-ever 147

O'Sullivan's promise had already been brought to the nation's attention by a 147 break at the age of 15 and a UK Championship title success at 17. It was at the Crucible that he really won the nation's hearts, though, effortlessly posting a maximum break in his first-round clash with Mick Price in the astonishing time of five minutes and 20 seconds.

(2) 2001: First world title win

O'Sullivan finally cashed in his potential to win the game's biggest prize by beating John Higgins 18-14. A number of near misses left some wondering if the crowd favourite would ever win in Sheffield, but he dispelled all those doubts before dedicating the win to his father, Ronnie Sr, who was then serving a life sentence for murder.

(3) 2007: Semi-final maximum

O'Sullivan's UK Championship semi-final with Mark Selby was not high on quality but nonetheless went to a 17th-frame decider. Rather than playing cagey snooker, though, O'Sullivan thumped in a breathtaking 147 and then admitted: "I cheated a bit really. I had been counting the dots on a spoon to keep focused." He beat Stephen Maguire in the final.

(4) 2009: New cue, same result.

Forever trying to set himself new challenges to recover his old self, O'Sullivan resorted to smashing up his cue on the eve of the 2009 Masters and set about trying to win the tournament - one of his favourite events - with a brand new cue. "It was fun, I really went to town on it. I wanted an excuse not to play," he said. He achieved his mission, though, beating Selby in the final.

(5) 2012: Fourth world title

O'Sullivan entered the year under something of a cloud, with further talk of retirement combined with his ever-sliding ranking. Needing a positive result at the German Masters to avoid having to qualify for the World Championship, he came back from the brink in his first-round clash with Andrew Higginson before going on to win the title with a final win over Maguire. He then maintained his form through to the Worlds, making light work of stellar names such as Mark Williams and Neil Robertson before dismantling Ali Carter in the final.

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