Monday 26 February 2018

Snooker: O'Sullivan delivers in right frame of mind

Ronnie O'Sullivan looks perplexed during his 10-2 victory over Dominic Dale in the first round of the World Snooker Championships. Photo: Getty Images
Ronnie O'Sullivan looks perplexed during his 10-2 victory over Dominic Dale in the first round of the World Snooker Championships. Photo: Getty Images

John Skilbeck

Ronnie O'Sullivan believes he may have struck on the cure for his snooker malaise but admits bringing in a sports psychiatrist represents the "last throw of the dice" for his career.

O'Sullivan delivered a 40-minute masterclass to demolish Welshman Dominic Dale yesterday, converting a 7-2 overnight lead to a 10-2 victory with stunning breaks of 115, 96 and 100.

The 35-year-old suggested the first match of his 19th World Championship campaign was the most satisfying he has ever played at the Crucible, despite his hat-trick of wins in 2001, 2004 and 2008.

O'Sullivan declined to go into detail about the conversations he has been having with Dr Steve Peters, who worked with Britain's successful cycling team at the 2008 Olympic Games and currently helps Team Sky riders.

However, his form spoke volumes as he won a ranking event tie for the first time since September's World Open.

"I'm not going to disclose what it is, but I've made it pretty clear I've been to see someone and let's just say it was a positive thing for me to do, because obviously I want to carry on playing," a positive O'Sullivan said refreshingly.

"It's nothing to do with making me a better snooker player but just allowing me to be like 99pc of the other snooker players. I just want to be on a level playing field."

Bringing in Peters is not the first move O'Sullivan has made to revive a dwindling interest in competing, but it might prove the most successful.

O'Sullivan said: "I've taken steps by employing new coaches, sport psychologists, just to try to keep the motivation to play there. One day it might click and this is the last throw of the dice.


"It has been a bit of a shift in the last week or so. It doesn't mean I'm going to go on and win this tournament or the next tournament, but if I can get back to enjoying playing again and being out there, that's the most important thing."

On Monday, he achieved his 100th century break at the World Championship, and while Dale's poor potting form often presented him with easy opening reds, O'Sullivan took many positives from his opener.

Indeed, his only frustration was that the match did not last longer.

"I enjoyed that match as much as any since my first appearance at the Crucible," O'Sullivan said.

"I've won it three times, been in a lot of big matches, but I came off thinking I was relieved the tournament had ended. Out there today, I didn't want it to end. I was a bit disappointed that the match finished in as easy a way as it did. In a way, I wish there were a few more frames out there for me.

"I've never felt like that before. If I take that feeling that I had out there today for the next five or 10 years, then I can win more world titles."

Dale (39) will head back to his Vienna home knowing he did not do himself justice after coming through the qualifying stages to reach the Crucible for the first time since 2004.

And Dale told O'Sullivan to believe in his ability to triumph again. "I've known Ronnie a long, long time," Dale said. "We go back to our amateur days when we were both about 12.

"We played in the World Amateur together in Thailand in '91.

"We all know he's had a few problems leading up to this and tried to withdraw -- I wish he had done -- so I looked him in the eye at the end and just said: 'Ron, listen, there are only 13 days left of this. You looked fantastic out there and you are more than capable of winning this.'

"He said: 'Yeah, I will.'"

World Championship,

Live, Eurosport, 10.0

Irish Independent

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