Ronnie O’Sullivan beating his demons thanks to Holby City star fiancée Laila Rouass
Rocket Ronnie O’Sullivan is beating his demons on and off the snooker table thanks to his secret weapon – fiancée Laila Rouass.
The five-time world champ is widely regarded as an all-time great of the sport but has been plagued by nerves.
But now the former badboy of snooker just needs to see his girlfriend rooting for him in the audience and his anxiety disappears.
And the ex Holby City and Footballer’s Wives star has also given him a big break from his erratic private life, characterised by weekly booze and drugs benders.
The proof of the duo’s success came earlier this month when Ronnie, 43, won the Shanghai Masters for the third year on the trot.
Ronnie even tried a romantic gesture when Laila touched down in the Chinese city but, unlike his game, this did not go to plan.
Modest Laila, 48, is not taking all the credit for changing Ronnie from a party animal who loved wild nights out to a more settled man who likes quiet evenings in with a glass of wine.
The couple, who had just been through break ups, met when Laila went to view his house. She did not know who he was.
But after being shy on their first date things moved quickly and they moved in together three months later. They have been engaged since 2012.
Laila said: “When I met him he was changing already. I’ve maybe centred him more.
“I’m a grounded person and Ronnie is so emotional, he wears his heart on his sleeve. I calmed him down in that way.”
Ronnie, nicknamed The Rocket, used to enjoy nights out with Oasis star Liam Gallagher and once spent a month in rehab to battle his drink and drug addiction.
He rarely drinks now – preferring to spend his time at the gym or cooking at home.
Laila said: “His partying days were over when we got together. He doesn’t drink at all really, he might have a glass of red wine once every couple of weeks but nothing regular.
Although Laila had mixed feelings about Ronnie’s Shanghai surprise when he presented her with a bunch of flowers at the airport.
Mum-of-one Laila laughed: “I wanted to kill him. I’d just come off a 12-hour flight, I looked like absolute s***, and there’s a bloody phone in my face and flowers shoved in my hand and I just thought WTF is going on?
“His friend was filming it. I don’t even want to look at it online, I was so embarrassed. I think it was more his friend’s idea than Ronnie’s. He’s really considerate – but I wouldn’t call him romantic.”
Ronnie explained about the very public display of affection: “I’m not the most romantic person in the world but I do my best. It’s one of my weak areas. I’m working on it though.”
Ronnie’s fast attacking style and incredible talent has turned him into a superstar and means he is away for about four months of the year. The rest of the time he likes being home with Laila.
“I’ve calmed him down in terms of anxiousness. It was nice to be with him in China I think he appreciated it.”
They have no plans to marry in the near future although Laila thinks they “will at some point”.
Laila, who has a north African background and six siblings, said her mum would invite everyone. She said: “I’d have to really gear myself up for a wedding. At the moment we’ve put it on the back burner and we’re enjoying our time so there’s no rush.
“It becomes a bit more important as you get older for legal reasons but for now we’re OK.” Dad-of-three Ronnie said: “If something’s not broke, why fix it? If it’s working why change a winning formula?”
One thing they have ruled out is a snooker -themed wedding. “That’d be tacky, I’d walk out,” laughed Laila.
While Ronnie travels the world Laila is working hard on a business venture.
Inspired by her glam role as Amber Gates in hit ITV series Footballers’ Wives, Laila has started a competition-based website where customers have the chance to win designer bags and shoes.
She said: “I love bags and shoes and that grew from doing shows like Footballers’ Wives where I was surrounded by them.
“I just really resent having to pay £2,000 or £1,500 for a handbag, or £600 for a pair of Louboutins. In this day and age, who has got that kind of money? The site is called bagmyshoes.com and it’s almost like a raffle.
“Tickets are £5.50 for brand new bag or £3.50 for the shoes, and there’s a skill-based question you have to answer.
“It’s taken me nearly a year to put it together – I want it to be a success. I really believe in it, I’ve invested my own money and I’m doing it alone.”
But fans of the actress, who played surgical registrar Sahira Shah for a year in Holby City, may see her on TV again.
She left Holby because she was missing out on daughter Inez’s schooling.
But the 12-year-old is now at boarding school and Laila would consider doing a soap or a series again.
In the past Ronnie, who became a grandad in October 2018 after eldest daughter Taylor-Ann had her first child, has been prescribed antidepressants for depression and anxiety.
Before the 2001 Snooker World Championships in Sheffield, which he won, a radio interview with him had to be cut short following a series of panic attacks.
But Laila believes he’s got to grips with his demons. She said: “Ronnie is very open and that’s a blessing.
“Occasionally he retreats into himself and you have to give him that time and he’ll find his way back. He recognises that feeling now. He’s got a lot of support.
“When you’ve got anxiety and depression you feel isolated as it is. It’s hard watching someone you love go through that. He’s spoken to some of the best people in the world about it so I think he’s got a good grip of it.”
The pair will be tuning in to Strictly Come Dancing , to see how Anton Du Beke, Laila’s pro partner from 2009, gets on.
She said: “I’m rooting for Anton with Emma Barton. He was my dance partner and poor guy, he hasn’t had much luck. Coming fourth with me that year was the closest he’s come to the final since we danced together.”
But the Strictly curse means Ronnie, awarded an OBE in 2016, will not follow in her footsteps.
She said: “In my year there was a couple and you thought, ‘we know something’s going on’ but when you’re with someone for six or seven days a week and you’re that close to them, it’s not surprising.
“I would not be happy if Ronnie said he was going to do Strictly!”…