Tuesday 23 January 2018

Snooker: O'Sullivan hints at retirement as a fourth title beckons

John Skilbeck

Ronnie O'Sullivan put the Crucible on retirement alert again last night as he powered into the Betfred.com World Championship final and warned he was ready to quit snooker.

The three-time champion will take on Ali Carter after both men posted convincing semi-final wins. O'Sullivan crushed Matthew Stevens 17-10 and Carter was a 17-12 winner against Stephen Maguire.

This tournament has already seen the sport's most successful player of modern times, Stephen Hendry, call time on his career, and now crowd favourite O'Sullivan says he is seriously considering following the Scot into a life beyond the green baize.

"I don't intend to stay in the game long, even though I feel in a lot better place," O'Sullivan said. "I've made that decision and this might -- I'm not saying it is -- be my last time in this tournament.

"I might consider having a good long break, a couple of years off or whatever. I've weighed up the pluses and the minuses and I'm quite comfortable with that decision. There's no better way for me than to have a good run at Sheffield and get to the final and if I win it, great, absolute bonus.

"I've had a fantastic time and it's got to come to an end sooner or later. I don't want to drag it out. I always said I'd like to go out on a high and getting to this final has been great. I'd love to go on and win it now. I'm not saying it's a guarantee but I think now is as good a time as ever.

"I know it might seem crazy but people close to me know what's going on. I've not been afraid to show how I feel. I feel in a good place to be able to say that. I've weighed up lots of things. Sometimes you've got to live life a little bit, maybe do a little bit of Strictly Come Dancing."

To give O'Sullivan's remarks a little context, yesterday's was the latest of many retirement threats to have come from the 36-year-old Essex cueman, the first while still a teenager.

In the final, played today and tomorrow, Carter will be hoping for a more favourable outcome than he experienced in 2008, having been soundly beaten 18-8 then. It could easily be one-sided again, though.

O'Sullivan made a slow start against Stevens yesterday morning before picking up his performance after the mid-session interval, and the consolidation of his overnight six-frame lead meant he returned for the evening session with a 15-9 cushion. Stevens bit into that with a 116 break.

The spectators did not need to wait long to see the table cleared in one visit, with O'Sullivan sinking all the balls in a supreme 130 run to move one frame away from the final. And the end for Stevens' fine fortnight was not long in arriving, O'Sullivan having breaks of 35 and 26 in securing another visit to the title match.

Carter was suffering so badly with Crohn's disease, the bowel condition he was diagnosed with nine years ago, that he considered walking away from the snooker tour this season. The World Championship would have been his last tournament, but instead it could be the making of him.

A no-wheat, no-dairy diet has worked wonders, but he believes a mind-boggling intake of carrot juice has been just as significant. The 32-year-old turned a 14-10 overnight lead into a 17-12 triumph over Maguire, for whom the match appeared to be a miserable experience from start to finish.

"Organic carrot juice is where it's at. All the other players are missing a trick. It's nicer than you think it would be," Carter said.

"I'm having 10 bags a day. You think I'm joking -- go into my dressing-room. Peter Ebdon brought the juicer.

"It's supposed to improve your eyesight. You could turn the light out and I'd still be able to play."

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