Ronnie O’Sullivan wants to win the upcoming World Snooker Championship – or fall at the first hurdle.
The Eurosport pundit – who will feature during their live coverage as well as playing in the tournament – was typically frank and honest about life in lockdown and returning to the table in an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com.
O’Sullivan is adored for his unrivalled achievements and unconventional style, though he has thoroughly enjoyed his time away from snooker during lockdown, and claims he barely practised at all during the break.
He said: “If someone said to me it’s in the bag, guaranteed, all you’ve got to do is turn up I’ll go, ‘Sweet,’ but it’s not like that.
“It takes a lot of preparation, blood, sweat and tears. I like to just go there and enjoy it.
“If I’m on, I’m a danger. If I’m not, an early exit suits me fine because I don’t want to go all the way to Sheffield and get beat in the final. That’s the worst result, it takes years off your career.
O’Sullivan admits the 17-day tournament is a daunting prospect with certain areas of his standard preparation out of his control, including the food he eats, as players must adhere to strict social-distancing rules.
“You can’t stay in the hotels you’d normally stay in. Usually I’d rent a house with my own food and a few friends with me and we’d just turn it into a holiday. The snooker is a bit of an add-on.
“All those things I could control, I’m not going to be able to do that stuff. Potentially, that’s quite worrying for me. How do you spend 17 days in an environment, eating food you’re not used to? It’ll be tricky.
“Some people live off Dominos pizza and deep-fried burgers and fried chicken, for them, eating a bit of Ryanair food in the hotel – that’s what the catering is like – they’re stomach’s going to deal with that whereas me, I’m probably going to make myself feel ill from that after a day.
“The resources World Snooker have isn’t great, so I imagine they’ll go down the low budget end, so I’m not sure how – health-wise – I’m going to cope with that. It’s all new. Normal, but new.
“It’s about whether it means that much to you anymore, if you want to go to prison for 17 days, sweat it out and go through that then great, but some people might not feel like that.”
O’Sullivan featured during the Championship League tournament in Milton Keynes at the start of June, but spoke about his love for the simple life lockdown allowed him to lead.
The 44-year-old said he missed snooker “for about three minutes” and barely practised at all, and while O’Sullivan still loves the game, he enjoyed a “fantastic time” away from the table.
“I like to play and I enjoy playing when I’m not preparing for anything and there’s no pressure and no big tournaments coming up. I love snooker. But once you start to think, ‘Is my game in good shape? Have I played enough? Do I need to do this?’ that’s when it becomes a job then.
“What it has taught me, in some ways, don’t prepare for anything, just play, oh, there’s a tournament next week, oh it’s the World Championship, oh, yeah, I’m going to go for that one. But trying to build anything up in your mind and putting so much emphasis on it, you end up stopping enjoying what is meant to be an enjoying.
“Before Milton Keynes, I’d done about six or seven hours practice, that was all I’d done since February, but I was doing a lot of practice in the mirror. I have this mirror in my house and I’d cue up for about half an hour every day just to make sure everything was all in line. That’s all I was doing.
“It sounds crazy to say, but I’ve had an absolutely fantastic time [in lockdown]. Life’s got even more simple.
“I’ve always enjoyed the simple life and always thought there was something wrong with me for wanting to enjoy a simple life but actually I’ve come to the conclusion it’s good to be like that.
“I rediscovered my running through the forest. You can’t go out to restaurants – not that I ever liked to – but it’s just made that impossible. Nice little takeaway sitting in my car eating it with the missus has turned out to be highlight of the week.
“It’s just the simple things, you know? People think, ‘Oh, you’re a bit of a weirdo,’ but actually I think most people come to the point of thinking it’s actually quite nice to get fish and chips and sit in your car or the top of a hill with a nice view and just enjoy the scenery.”
Now O’Sullivan is back under the spotlight, all eyes will be trained on him for more box-office performances that have seen him become the most-celebrated player in the history of the game.