The Art of beeing (too) hard on oneself

Phill Haigh once again reports on Ronnie’s conversations with Stephen Hendry on Instagram:

Ronnie O’Sullivan explains why he can’t watch his own matches

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he struggles to watch his own matches back, because he can be so critical of his own cue action.

The Rocket is incredibly harsh on himself, saying that he has felt suicidal after winning matches, because he was still so disappointed with how he played.

His work with sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters has helped him overcome this crippling self analysis, but it still stops the five-time world champion from watching himself play at times.

O’Sullivan hates to see minor and often insignificant changes to his cue action, which he knows are inevitable, but are still a source of frustration.

‘I’ve got about 50 cue actions,’ O’Sullivan told Stephen Hendry on Instagram. ‘I’m a lot better now than I used to be, but I’ve had a nightmare.

‘I can’t even watch myself play sometimes because I watch it and think, “I don’t like that, I don’t like this.”

‘I’ve had so many different cue actions, I think it’s just part and parcel, you’re always tweaking about.

‘Sometimes when you change, no one would even notice, it’s just you. Moving this finger or that finger, go a bit more square on, go a bit shorter.

‘Although you think you’ve made a change, you probably haven’t, it’s more psychological.’

The futility of feeling down about his cue action is proved by O’Sullivan feeling he played badly in a near perfect performance against Ali Carter in 2007.

The Rocket beat the Captain 5-2 in the Northern Ireland Trophy, making five centuries, including a maximum 147.

It was a performance that the majority of professionals in history could not repeat, but Ronnie was unhappy afterwards.

‘I played Ali Carter I think I made five centuries in a best of nine, one of them’s a 147 and afterwards I just felt I wasn’t cueing that well.

‘I wasn’t! But for some reason they just went in that day.

’ O’Sullivan is back in action at the World Championship, which begins on 31 July, as he looks to win his first ranking event of a season which has been quiet by his high standards.

He may have had a slow and steady season and not won the World Championship since 2013, but the 44-year-old goes into the tournament as second favourite with the event sponsors, Betfred, only behind reigning champion Judd Trump.

Ronnie is a perfectionist through and through and it has often been his undoing.

That said, I remember that match in 2007 very well. Ronnie was crucified by fans and media afterwards because he wasn’t happy with his performance. And yet, he was right. He may have had five centuries in that match, including a 147,  but he wasn’t creating opportunities for himself. His long potting wasn’t great at all and he had to rely on his opponents mistakes to get in. Once in the balls he was OK, Ali gave him those opportunities. The next day, Fergal O’Brien played a much tighter game and beat him.

That Ronnie is second favourite this year doesn’t make sense. Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy, both had a much better season so far and should definitively be ahead of him. But they aren’t and that’s part of Ronnie’s problem. He has always a lot of expectations on his shoulders even when nothing actually justifies them. It doesn’t help him.