Ahead of Stephen Hendry’s match tonight

A few interesting things  …

Steve Feeney speaking to Phil Haigh about the work he’s doing with Stephen Hendry:

Stephen Hendry’s coach explains remarkable rebuilding process: ‘The work he’s doing his exceptional’

Stephen Hendry
Stephen Hendry makes his long-awaited return on Tuesday (Picture: WST)

Stephen Hendry is producing ‘exceptional’ work on the practice table and is showing plenty of signs of his old self ahead of his return to professional snooker, says his coach and major player in his comeback, Stephen Feeney.

Hendry plays his first professional match since 2012 on Tuesday night when he takes on Matt Selt in the first round of the Gibraltar Open, finally capitalising on the two-year wildcard he was handed at the start of the season.

The 52-year-old has been out of the game for a long time and practiced very little for much of that spell, so there is great intrigue over where his skills stand in 2021.

The seven-time world champion has been working with Feeney and his SightRight methods for over a year now and has been given the confidence to compete once again, with the ultimate goal of a sensational return to the Crucible.

Feeney’s method is based around sighting the ball correctly, which is surprisingly something that many players do not do with some inadvertently aiming to miss pots as they are incorrectly aligned.

He has worked successfully with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and Dave Gilbert and believes he is managing to ‘put the pieces back together’ of the old Stephen Hendry.

The Scot famously suffered with the yips at the end of his previous spell on tour, but Feeney believes this was down to technical issues that crept into his game that he is capable of fixing.

‘I think it’s fair to say Stephen would score his game 1/10 when he came to me,’ Feeney told Metro.co.uk.

‘We’ve worked on everything around his alignment, his cue action, a lot of things in dealing with perfect sighting alignment, educating the eyes to do the right thing and aim in the right way then certain things build automatically behind that.

‘If you imagine picking up a gun and you’re off-line, if you fire to hit the target, however you’re holding that gun you’re technique is going to move that gun because instinctively you know you’re missing. So when someone’s off-line and badly off-line, you get a lot of movement.

‘Stephen has always known that he had a view of his yips. I put it down to certain technical things that started to happen. I believe he went off-line, technical things crept in and we had a seven-time world champion missing.

‘Some people said it was because he was losing and all sorts of things, but you don’t just become a bad player overnight. If you’re a great player you’ve got to do something wrong and persistently wrong for things to happen.

‘It could even be something as simple as someone putting on weight and losing their natural sighting line, You can suddenly get someone who is used to potting balls at leisure to someone who starts to miss and feel vulnerable.

‘If you’re missing because of technical errors, then that becomes a mental issue but it’s secondary. You lose confidence because you’re missing, so I go to the root problem.’

Betfred.com World Snooker Championship
Hendry’s last game as a pro was a World Championship quarter-final defeat to Stephen Maguire nine years ago (Picture: Getty Images)

Feeney is supremely confident that Hendry’s problems of nearly a decade ago have been cured and the confidence issues that saw him leave the sport have been solved.

Not to say that Hendry will come out firing from ball one on Tuesday night, looking like he could win an eighth world title, but his game has been put back together to reach a point at which he can compete.

‘If there’s anything going wrong technically, a typical character like Stephen will ultimately back off from the game, which is what he did because he couldn’t see how to put things right. But now he’s back he’s beginning to see a different story,’ said Feeney.

‘Back in 2012 lots of things were going on, he made his decision to retire and we’re now in a situation where if he brings 1/10 to me I can put it back together with him as long as he’s got the heart and the drive.

‘His eyes are okay, there’s nothing physically stopping him playing a great game of snooker. The confidence level will start to improve and his composure with match practice will start to improve because he’ll start to trust himself more.

‘I won’t give a score where he is at the minute, but his own comments are that his cue action is better than it was 10 years ago. People kind of pigeonhole me through SightRight to only perfect sighting alignment, but I coach across the whole game.

‘Stephen is learning the ability to strike the ball in a better way and we’re having a fun time and putting in hard work.’

Feeney has worked with a number of top players, not just in snooker but also in golf and darts, and has come across all sorts of different types of students.

However people take to his methods, Feeney always aims to prove what he is doing by allowing his students to do things they have never done before, something that Hendry is finding himself, even at 52-years-old.

‘Stephen just listened and got on with it,’ Feeney said of Hendry’s learning style. ‘Mark [Williams] was the same. You might have another player who asks loads of questions, wants to know the ins-and-outs and detail.

‘With Ronnie…Stephen and Ronnie are two completely different characters to work with in sessions. My job in each and every session is to show them that perhaps they can do things that they weren’t able to do before.

Ronnie-Feeney
Feeney and O’Sullivan have worked closely in recent years (Picture: SightRight.co.uk)

‘If you’re always raising the bar in their skillset and ability, that creates a different belief in them. “Wow I never used to be able to do that. I’m the seven-time world champion and I never used to be able to do that!”

‘If I said to you, there could be a lot of people that look at Stephen and think, “that’s the same old Stephen.” He’s learned to trust himself with the SightRight methods, to trust himself with the cue action that we’ve built, that we’ve put back together again. I’ve done this with dart players, learning to trust becomes very, very important.’

We saw the first flashes of the new/old Hendry at the World Seniors Championship last August when he reached the semi-final before losing to Jimmy White.

His old rival is as intrigued as anyone to see how he gets on in his comeback and has even been down to help him practice, along with another former World Championship final foe, Ken Doherty.

‘He didn’t play well against Jimmy but I believe that’s a long way away now,’ said Feeney. ‘He’s enjoying playing practice partners, Jimmy’s been down to play him, Ken’s been down to play him. He wants to play.

Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White
Hendry and White have been in the practice room together (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I’m not going to say that he’s going to get a bloody nose in Gibraltar at all, but it’s mostly about Stephen getting back in there, finding some composure and enjoying competing.

‘When he played Jimmy White there was just a little lack of composure there, but some of the stuff he’s doing in practice and the work we’ve done on his cue action is exceptional.

‘We know where we’re at, we know what could happen. The most important thing is he goes out there and enjoys it, enjoys the pressure. Pressure is a perspective, but he’s got to enjoy being there and then that readies us for the World Championship qualifiers.’

If Hendry is to return to the Crucible this year he will have to come through every round of qualifying as he sits at the bottom end of the rankings ahead of his return.

Turning up in Milton Keynes this week for the Gibraltar Open is all about getting the match sharpness back in preparation for that task.

‘He needs the race, needs the competitive game to sharpen him up under pressure,’ said Feeney. ‘It’s a completely different world out there, you can play people in practice but it’s never the same until you get under the lights, it really isn’t.

‘Gibraltar is a case of go out, enjoy it, come what may. If he goes deep into this tournament, maybe very deep…come what may.

‘It’s not that we’ve got no expectation, I’ve got every expectation but I also understand we’re playing best of seven, someone could rattle off a few big breaks. Stephen could do that to Matt, Matt could do that to Stephen in a best of seven.’

World Snooker Championship - Day Seventeen
Steve Feeney helped Mark Williams to his incredible 2018 World Championship win (Picture: Getty Images)

Feeney also coaches Selt, with Stephen and Matt being close friends, which makes the comeback match all the more interesting.

Playing a good pal might just relax Hendry a bit on his return, although both men will know they will never hear the end of it if they lose.

‘I just said to Matt, “it’s a huge privilege, I bet you feel honoured” and he does,’ said the coach. ‘It’s historic, in a way. The first person to play Stephen Hendry coming back on tour.

‘At the end of the day one of them is going to lose and it’ll be street cred, it’ll be all the things that come with it, the banter that will go on and the stories that will be told, but I think Matt feels quite privileged to be the first person to play him.

‘I said to Matt, “all I want to see is you both playing to your best, because you’ll both come off the table happy.” If you don’t leave anything out there then you can’t have anything to moan about.’

No one knows what is going to happen when Hendry gets out there, back into the intense pressure of the professional game, but Feeney is adamant that his legacy is not on the line.

The Scot cannot destroy the immense achievements he has made in the game, in fact he cannot even damage them in the slightest, whatever happens from here on in.

Not that Feeney is expecting that to be a problem, with the coach envisaging plenty of success for the seven-time world champ.

‘Some people are worried about losing his legacy but there’s no reason that his legacy would be anything but completely intact,’ he said. ‘The courage for him to do what he’s doing is exceptional.

‘Stephen wants to really enjoy the game and with the competitive instinct in him, if he’s enjoying the game and learning to win again then we have a man who is back.’

And Desmond Kane’s about Matt Selt’s view on Hendry’s mindset …

GIBRALTAR OPEN: ‘STEPHEN HENDRY WANTS TO PROVE HE’S THE GREATEST’ – MATTHEW SELT ON KING’S RETURN>/h2>

Stephen Hendry returns to competitive action after a nine-year absence against close friend Matthew Selt. The pair meet in the first round of the Gibraltar Open LIVE on Eurosport at 7pm on Tuesday as seven-times world champion Hendry attempts to recapture former glories. For Selt, the friends reunited clash represents the biggest match of his career.

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Desmond Kane

“He’s only got one friend in the world, and that’s me,” jokes a mirthful Matthew Selt ahead of meeting his old mucker Stephen Hendry in snooker’s most eagerly anticipated comeback story of this or any other year.

Selt’s sportive mood will give way to a rather more serious outlook on Tuesday night when he confronts the seven-times world champion over the best of seven frames at the Gibraltar Open. Hendry is brimming with anticipation more than expectation. Yet when you boast such a glorious back catalogue, there is always room to dream. Daring to dream is no bad thing when you once regally lorded it over the old green baize’s land of hope and glory and then some.

Despite sport being forced behind closed doors due to the pandemic, the man dubbed the ‘King of the Crucible’ for his heavy-scoring domination of snooker in the 1990s returns with more fanfare in Milton Keynes than Elvis Presley at Burbank in 1968.

While the King of Rock and Roll spent seven years away from public performance, the king of pot and roll will bring an end to a nine-year absence that will greeted by snooker diehards with more expectancy than John Virgo doing his Hurricane Higgins impression back in the day.

“If I start to play well then the expectation will build and I’ll want to win more,” commented Hendry.

ONE OF THE REASONS I RETIRED WAS BECAUSE I COULDN’T WIN ANY MORE. I HAVE TO CONTROL THOSE EXPECTATIONS. I’M HITTING THE BALL BETTER IN PRACTICE THAN I WAS WHEN I RETIRED.

This will be Hendry’s first competitive match on the main World Snooker Tour since he was annihilated 13-2 by fellow Scot Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals of the 2012 World Championship, a fairly gruesome epilogue to such a gilded 27-year career

He admitted it was a “relief” to retire as his once pristine game descended into a state of torpor with mechanical and psychological failure rendering him a yesterday’s man before it was time to let go.
Being forced to qualify for the Crucible in the death throes of his career was the final ignominy.

“It felt degrading. That’s no disrespect to other players, but I had owned the Crucible for a decade with seven wins and two finals,” he said.

‘SNOOKER WORLD WILL TUNE IN’

At the age of 52, he sports a telling beard these days, but is hardly an elder statesmen in a sport that has just witnessed the evergreen John Higgins produce the grandest form of his life in rampaging to the Players Championship with an astonishing 10-3 final filleting of the world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan. Both men seem to just be getting warmed up in their 40s.

“The whole snooker world will tune in,” said Higgins of Hendry. “Who knows what will happen? It will be interesting.

STEPHEN IS OBVIOUSLY EXCITED. IT’S THE WORST POSSIBLE MATCH FOR MATT SELT BECAUSE THEY ARE MATES AND I IMAGINE THERE WILL BE A LOT OF BANTER AND TEXT MESSAGES BEFOREHAND.

Selt – the world number 25 from Romford – speaks every day to Hendry having become friends with the Scot during the 2009 Shanghai Masters. Being part of the king’s comeback special represents the biggest showpiece occasion of his career.
“When the draw came out, I thought: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’,” he told Eurosport. “It’s the first time in a long time I’ve been really excited about playing a game.

“During this lockdown, we’ve been very lucky to still be able to play, but every tournament feels like the same.

IN MY CAREER, WHICH HAS BEEN PRETTY LONG AND NOT PRETTY LUCRATIVE, IT’S PROBABLY THE BIGGEST MATCH I’VE PLAYED.

“To be able to have that opportunity to be part of something so special. I feel very lucky to be playing this match.”

Selt last locked cues with Hendry in the last 16 of the 2011 Australian Open in Victoria when he enjoyed a 5-1 win in the last 16, but could have been the last man to face him before he headed off to his potting shed the first time around.

“I played him in Bendigo a decade ago, but I should have been the last player to play him before he retired,” he said. “I lost to Yu Delu at the 2012 World Championship before Stephen beat him to qualify for Sheffield.

“If I had beaten Yu Delu it would have been me and Stephen in the last round of qualifiers for the worlds.

BACK THEN AND BEING FRIENDS WITH HIM, I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE THE PLAYER WHO PLAYED HIM IN HIS LAST MATCH BECAUSE THE OPPORTUNITY WAS THERE. BUT TO BE THE PERSON WHO PLAYS HIM IN HIS FIRST MATCH BACK IS JUST AS SPECIAL.

“It’s all very weird that the draw has come out like this. It was 127-1 that we played each other.

“It’s a very strange coincidence, but one we will both be grateful for.
“It’s good for him to come back and play someone he knows so well. Hopefully he can settle and get into some sort of rhythm.

I’D RATHER WE HAVE A GOOD GAME AND HE WON RATHER THAN HE PLAYED TERRIBLE AND I WIN. THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANT TO HAPPEN.

‘SNOOKER WILL BENEFIT’

Hendry has been working with Stephen Feeney, the much-lauded coach whose SightRight method helped Mark Williams enjoy a third world title in 2018 and Ronnie O’Sullivan career to a sixth victory last year.

Selt credits the work he has done with Feeney as key to his solitary ranking event success at the 2019 Indian Open in Kochi where he defeated John Higgins 4-2 in the semi-finals before a 5-3 win over Lyu Haotian in the final.

Selt feels Hendry would not be returning without hope having drifted into the abyss mourning the loss of the consistency that delivered seven world victories in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1999.

As he chewed on a piece of gum after his gutting farewell loss to Maguire, a weight seemed to have been visibly lifted from the shoulders that revelled in 36 ranking titles, earned over eight million quid in prize money, became the sport’s youngest world champion at 21 and amassed 775 century breaks since 1985, a time when he was dubbed ‘The Wonder Bairn’.

This is a bloke who spent a record eight years as number one between 1990 and 1998 before returning to the summit in 2007 despite steady decline set against the suffocating benchmark of his own success story. The mind plays tricks on the greatest of champions.

“I’m a winner and I still hate to see other players winning,” Hendry said.

I STILL BELIEVE THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BELONGS TO ME.

During the era of Thatcherism in the UK, single-mindedness was viewed as a virtue, but seemed especially ripe for the solitary nature of snooker, a game the UK loved more than bangers and mash with their Sunday roast.

Hendry’s six Masters and five UK titles were all claimed between 1989 and 1996 before the trophies dried up as quickly as the tsunami of table time had gripped the sport, ripping away Steve Davis’ decade of supremacy in the 1980s. Hendry dissolved quicker than Davis because he could no longer accept the end of his dynasty.

Time spent away from the sport has allowed him to focus on business interests in China and regular commissions as a TV pundit, but the Edinburgh-born icon is keen to scratch the itch of unfinished business.

He has played exhibitions and some World Seniors fare, but this will see him plunged right back into the rat race as O’Sullivan puts it as he starts out ranked at 128, back at square one. Rather grimly, the sport’s number one Judd Trump thinks he will struggle to win a game.

“He retired for a reason and that reason must have changed because he feels like he can come back and play,” opined Selt.

OBVIOUSLY WORKING WITH STEPHEN FEENEY HAS HELPED. WITHOUT WORKING WITH STEVE, I WOULDN’T HAVE WON THE INDIAN OPEN.

“I have a lot of respect and credit for Steve. I still work with him now. I’m pretty sure Steve would have helped Stephen get back to some sort of level that allows him to participate and compete on the tour.

“It will be interesting to see what work he has done with Feeney to see how he plays.”

‘THE RIGHT CALL’

Selt recalls raising the subject with Hendry a decade ago to detect if he was on the verge of quitting having last lifted a ranking trophy at the 2005 Malta Cup.

“I did ask him during that season if he was going to retire and he denied it before retiring,” said Selt. “You could tell he wasn’t as sharp as he had been throughout his career.

“The questions were there if he was still enjoying it. Obviously that year when he did retire, he clearly wasn’t. You could tell he wasn’t enjoying it with some of the balls he was missing.

I THINK HE MADE THE RIGHT CALL BACK THEN. LET’S HOPE HE’S MADE THE RIGHT CALL COMING BACK OUT OF RETIREMENT BECAUSE IF HE CAN COMPETE AND PLAY TO A CERTAIN STANDARD, EVERYONE IN THE SNOOKER WORLD WILL BENEFIT FROM HIS RETURN TO THE TOUR.

“I don’t remember Stephen at his peak performance so I can’t comment on what he was like.
“But for someone who dominated the game for so long, he wasn’t putting in the performances he was used to.

“I suppose when you get to that kind of level, it is hard continuing knowing you aren’t reaching the standard you once did.

THAT’S WHY I’VE GOT ULTIMATE RESPECT FOR HIM COMING OUT TO TRY AGAIN.

Hendry has not revealed what has inspired his decision after joining Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White, the man he defeated in four world finals, and 1997 world champion Ken Doherty in accepting a two-year wildcard from WST chairman Barry Hearn to compete on the main circuit mainly for services to snooker.

Like Paul Newman as Fast Eddy Felson in The Color of Money, the public loves the return of an old hustler plotting a route back to the summit in any sport.

Sugar Ray Leonard completed one of sport’s most memorable comebacks when he outpointed Marvin Hagler in their world middleweight title fight in 1987 having fought just one since retiring in 1982, but Leonard also pointed out that: “you just don’t heal that easy unless you’re young”.

Selt has his own views about Hendry’s motivation having said that he is again keen to return to the Crucible.

“He hasn’t given me a reason. I think he just misses competing at the highest level and misses playing in front of the crowd,” said Selt.

“I think that’s why he has delayed his return. Although we are very lucky to be playing at Milton Keynes, there isn’t much of a buzz playing there without any fans.

“I think he wants to get some matches under his belt before the World Championship, an event he has won more than anybody else.

SO FOR HIM, HE’LL ALWAYS BE TRYING TO CHASE THE STUFF HE’S DONE BEFORE IN THAT TOURNAMENT.

‘CHANGED THE FACE OF THE GAME’

Hendry was a potting pioneer in altering the mood of the cautious 1980s to a more cavalier 1990s through to a modern era that witnesses buccaneering characters whose idea of a shot to nothing is always a shot for something.

Hendry’s idea of a safety shot was opting not to open the pack of reds at the first opportunity. His fearless approach has become the study guide to playing the modern way.

Selt feels that is illustrated by world number 81 Jordan Brown’s rise to prominence at the Welsh Open that included victories over Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and O’Sullivan in the final.

“Stephen changed the face of the game to be super attacking and now it’s super attacking across the board,” explained Selt. “It has changed. Everyone plays the game the way he played the game. These early rounds, people don’t care.
“It’s all-out attack. If they pot balls, they win, if they don’t, they lose. It’s the people that pot them most consistently who win.

“It’s plain to see the standard of people outside the top 32 is a lot, lot higher than it has ever been.
“It’s questionable if it is higher at the top four or top eight. When would you have got a bloke like the world number 81 Jordan Brown beating everybody to win the Welsh Open?
“It would never have happened years ago.”
‘Get in there!’ – The moment Brown shocked O’Sullivan to win Welsh Open title

‘PROVE HE IS THE GREATEST’

Despite being close friends with Hendry, Selt’s snooker idol is another Scot in the form of Higgins, who managed to complete a 6-0 win over Mark Selby in the quarter-finals of his victorious Players Championship campaign with his opponent potting only three balls for seven points.

“That match against Selby was frightening. I’ve never hidden the fact that John Higgins is my snooker hero,” he said.

“To see him still play like that, gives me great pleasure to watch. He’s a phenomenal player.

“People go on about age, but does it really matter? They’re proving it’s just a number and are getting on with it.

“You are either really, really good or you are good. They are the greats and they will always be the greats until they put their cues down.

I THINK STEPHEN MUST MISS BEING THE GREATEST. I THINK THAT IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY HE IS COMING BACK BECAUSE HE WANTS TO PROVE HE IS THE GREATEST.

“I hope he can prove that, but it remains to be seen.”

Selt has faced O’Sullivan, Hendry, Higgins, Steve Davis and Judd Trump at various stages of their respective careers, but feels the GOAT debate remains a live issue.
“People have different theories on who is the greatest,” he said. “Hendry has won the most world titles and Ronnie is the only player who can really eclipse that.
“I’m not a fence-sitter, but the older I become I do more fence sitting.

I THINK RONNIE IS THE GREATEST PLAYER TO PLAY THE GAME. I THINK HENDRY IS THE GREATEST WINNER.

“Higgins is my favourite so it’s a bit of a boring answer really from me. I just think the way Higgins conducts himself is different class.

“If they were all in a room together, he’s [Higgins] the only one you wouldn’t know what he won because he is just that down to earth.

I’VE ALWAYS HAD RESPECT FOR HIM. RONNIE SCARES THE LIVING S**T OUT OF ME. WHEN I PLAY HIM, I JUST CAN’T BREATHE.

Selt recalls being a nervous wreck when he first met Hendry in the last 32 of the World Grand Prix in Glasgow in 2009.

“It was an absolute honour. He beat me 5-2. I couldn’t walk around the table without my legs shaking.

“I still remember it vividly. Just being able to play these great players is a great honour and why I started playing snooker in the first place.”

‘STAND UP TO THE PRESSURE’

Selt has earned over £680,000 in prize money from a career that has spanned 19 years. He has twice qualified for the World Championship and is the only man in history to make five centuries in six frames in his 6-0 walloping of Amine Amiri in the first round of the UK Championship in December.

“I’ve got a little bit of grievance about that. They say I’m the third person to make five centuries in a best-of-11 match,” he commented. “I am the only player in history to make five centuries in six frames. It has never happened before.

“In my next match, Lu Ning missed a yellow off the spot for five in a row.
“I’m very proud of some of the stuff I’ve achieved. I think I’ve had three centuries on the spin five times in my career.

“For someone who hasn’t done much in the game, which I haven’t at this point, I’ve got some good stuff going on in places.

“I am playing pretty well and I’m looking forward to seeing how I compete in what is going to be the biggest match I’ve ever played in.

“I’m looking forward to see how I personally stand up to the pressure.”

The bloke in the other chair might be feeling it more. No other snooker great has been away for so long before reigniting their inner flame. It is uncharted territory for Hendry, but the return of the king after nine years in exile creates its own elixir. Will it be a potion to bring back the heady afterglow of his youthful yesteryear?

Far from the madding crowd, and far from his potting pomp, Stephen Hendry again commands everybody’s attention.

I sincerly hope for Stephen that he can compete and compete well tonight and that all those expectations piled on him will not weight too much.

The 2021 Gibraltar Open – Hendry’s return

The 2021 Gibraltar Open is about to start and the man talking point ahead of the tournament is Stephen Hendry’s return.

WST have published this video on their YouTube channel

There has also been this interesting interview with Eurosport:

GIBRALTAR OPEN 2021: ‘I BASICALLY GAVE UP’ – STEPHEN HENDRY HOPING TO MAKE UP FOR ‘EMBARRASSMENT’

Stephen Hendry confirmed he would appear at the Gibraltar Open – staged in Milton Keynes – which runs from March 1 to March 7 live on Eurosport. A legend of snooker, having recorded 775 century breaks in his decorated career, Hendry says he wants to prove the doubters wrong and make up for his last loss back in 2012.

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Seven-time world title winner Stephen Hendry says he wants to make up for an “embarrassing” loss nine years ago when he makes his comeback at the Gibraltar Open aged 52 next week.
I lost 13-2 to Steve Maguire [in the quarter-finals] and I basically gave up about a third of the way through the match,” he told The Times.

I KNEW IT WAS OVER. I KNEW I COULDN’T COMPETE.

I would like my last match at the Crucible, if possible, to be a match I can look back on and think, ‘I played well, I did everything I could even if I lost.
“I want a game when I can be happy with what I gave rather than that 13-2 embarrassment.
“One of my goals in this comeback is not about winning but just to get back to the Crucible.

I AM GOING TO HAVE TO WIN FOUR MATCHES [IN QUALIFYING] JUST TO GET THERE, ALMOST A MINI-TOURNAMENT, SO IT’S GOING TO BE SO, SO DIFFICULT. BUT THERE’S NO POINT IN SETTING YOURSELF EASY GOALS.

Judd Trump says it would be a “surprise” to him if Hendry “won any games at all” on his return.

Hendry insists he is not fussed by the talk and compares his comeback to that made by golfer Tiger Woods.
I heard some of the same stuff when Tiger Woods was coming back, that he wouldn’t be able to compete because the young players were hitting it longer than him now,” he said.

EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO THEIR OPINION. I JUST SAW JUDD, WE’VE HAD A LAUGH ABOUT IT. IT WOULD MAKE IT NICE TO WIN MY FIRST MATCH AND SAY, ‘THERE YOU GO.’

Hendry believes that the overall standard of the tour has not significantly improved since his prime years.

He added: “The top players are great, great players but there is still a lot of snooker out there where I think: ‘There’s nothing there that I wasn’t doing’.”
My return feels like a double-edged sword. I am a scalp, I’ve still got the name someone wants to beat but, then, who wants to lose to me in my first match since 2012? There’s pressure both ways.

So, that’s a bit different from what we have seen elsewhere.

I was at the Crucible, taking pictures that year, and in the media room. It was all strange. Stephen dry had needed to qualify for the World Championship that year. He had beaten Gerard Greene by 10-8. He then completely dominate Stuart Bingham in the first round , beating him 10-4 and making a maximum, and John Higgings who was defending champions, beating him by 13-4. He had been unusually animated after his maximum. Then against Stephen Maguire, he struggled. The third frame was close, but Stephen made a mistake at a crucial moment and then it was as if he had been knocked out, it went all spiralling down. It was as if every belief had left him. After the match, he came to the media room, sat down, and calmly said “I have played my last professional match”. It took (almost) everyone by surprise. There was a stunned silence in the room. Stephen then explained that he had taken his decisions months earlier. That he didn’t like the new structure of the tour, didn’t want to struggle in qualifier and wasn’t prepared to carry on if he could not win anymore.

Good luck to him on his return. It’s quite the challenge.

Ronnie speaks to Phil Haigh ahead of his L16 match in the 2021 Players Championship

Ronnie has been speaking to Phil Haigh ahead of his match tonight and I think this interview explains a lot about the way he’s playing at the moment.

Here is the interview:

Ronnie O’Sullivan: Losses don’t hurt when you’re the most successful snooker player of all time

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Ronnie O’Sullivan is back in action on Tuesday after losing the Welsh Open final on Sunday (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan was not left too disappointed by his deciding-frame defeat in the Welsh Open final on Sunday night, saying it is tough to feel down after losses when you’re the most successful player in history.

The Rocket was beaten 9-8 by Jordan Brown in a remarkable final at Celtic Manor as the man who came into the tournament priced at 750/1 won his first ranking title.

O’Sullivan is still looking for his first trophy since winning the World Championship title in August but has now lost in three finals after also falling at the last hurdle in the Northern Ireland and Scottish Opens.

The world champion was asked if he was starting to get wound up by these defeats in finals and he said he is almost immune to those kind of feelings after the career he has had so far.

‘I suppose if I hadn’t won 37 ranking tournaments and 20 majors it might have maybe had a little dent in me,’ O’Sullivan said after the Welsh Open final. ‘But when you’ve been the most successful snooker player of all time, disappointments like that, you kind of just take them in your stride.

‘I thought it was a good match, Jordan played fantastically well, held himself together brilliantly in the last frame. Disappointed obviously to lose, but also happy to be involved in a good match.’

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Ronnie O’Sullivan was full of praise for Jordan Brown after the Welsh Open final (Picture: Zheng Zhai)

O’Sullivan is back in action on Tuesday night in the Players Championship in Milton Keynes as he takes on Ding Junhui in the first round.

The Rocket has played a lot of events this year, by his standards, but shows no sign of slowing down with the World Championship approaching.

‘It’s just one continuous tournament, isn’t it?’ O’Sullivan said. ‘You can’t separate them anymore, it’s just like every day one runs into the other.

‘Someone asked me what my next tournament was the other day and I said, “it’s impossible to know, it’s like having 30 children and trying to remember all their names.”

‘I just try and look at it like one big tournament and just try to play. This week could be good but next week might not be so good, but who cares?’

O’Sullivan has also entered the Gibraltar Open next week and will also play in the Tour Championship next month back at Celtic Manor as he looks to get in the best shape possible to defend his world title in Sheffield.

He takes on Ding Junhui on Tuesday evening at the Players Championship with the winner taking on either Jack Lisowski or Martin Gould in the quarter-finals.

Ronnie intends to play in the Tour Championship but isn’t safe just yet. He could do with winning tonight.

The 2021 Welsh Open – Reactions from both finalists.

The excellent Phil Haigh spoke to both finalists after their match… here is what they had to say:

Jordan Brown:

Jordan Brown: I’ve been critical of Ronnie O’Sullivan but he’s changed my opinion of him

Jordan Brown
Jordan Brown stunned the snooker world with his Welsh Open win (Picture: WST)

Jordan Brown secured one of the most remarkable victories in snooker history on Sunday night as he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-8 to win the Welsh Open and it has change his life, his bank balance and his opinion of the Rocket.

The 33-year-old had never been to a ranking semi-final before this event and only once made a quarter-final, which is why the bookmakers were happy to offer odds of 750/1 on him lifting the trophy at Celtic Manor.

The Antrim Ferrari showed sublime quality and incredible nerve over the week, winning five matches in deciding frames and downing Mark Selby in the last eight before thrashing Stephen Maguire in the semis to set up the showdown with O’Sullivan.

Brown was briefly on the tour over a decade ago and only returned in 2018, with his lack of experience illustrated by the fact he had never played the Rocket before Sunday night in Newport.

However, it mattered not that he was taking on the world champion for the first time and contesting his first ever major final as he went toe-to-toe with the Rocket throughout and finally got over the line in the epic contest with a tremendous break of 74 in the decider.

Jordan was taking on an idol in Ronnie, which makes the achievement all the more incredible for onlookers, but also all the more special for him.

‘He’s the greatest of all time and his speech there at the end meant so much to me, coming from him,’ Brown told Metro.co.uk. ‘You could tell he genuinely meant it. We all know what Ronnie’s like, he’s a bit temperamental, but for someone like him to do that there is unbelievable.’

O’Sullivan told Rob Walker after suffering defeat: ‘I’ve enjoyed every minute of that today, I’ve had such a fantastic time, loved playing Jordan, he’s a great guy, he really is.

‘I’m so happy for him to win, he’s a lovely guy and a fantastic player.

‘You don’t beat Selby, Maguire and I played alright tonight, not many people beat me when I’m playing alright so he’s a proper player, you know.

‘Fantastic for Jordan, his night and you couldn’t be happier for him.’

Brown also revealed a nice moment the two men shared after the final ball was potted, explaining: ‘He said he really enjoyed the match and I thoroughly deserved it, great break in the last frame.

‘All I said to him was that it was an absolute honour to play against him. He said, “thanks but no, really you definitely deserve it and great match.”‘

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Ronnie O’Sullivan congratulates Jordan Brown after the match (Picture: WST)

O’Sullivan’s class in defeat has turned round Brown’s view of him after the Northern Irishman admitted he had been both annoyed and motivated by the Rocket’s comments at the 2020 World Championship.

The six-time world champ said at the Crucible last year that he would have to lose an arm and a leg to drop out of the world’s top 50, which ‘didn’t go down well’ with Brown who was lower down the rankings than that at the time.

The Antrim star has proved that there is immense quality further down the rankings and is also happy to change his view of the Rocket after not seeing him in the best light recently.

‘It did annoy me, but it just spurred me on because I just wasn’t having that,’ Brown told Metro.co.uk of O’Sullivan’s comments.

‘Today I’ve definitely proved him wrong, that I’m not a numpty. I’ve definitely proved a lot, not just to him, but to everyone on tour, people in general, that I can play this game and to a very high level. I’ve had so many messages from my fellow competitors and it means so much to me.

‘I’ve been very critical of Ronnie, especially recently because I’ve always looked up to him and when he’s making comments like he did, you think to yourself, “What’s he like? Why is he getting on like that?”

‘He’s not proving himself to anybody, he should be the role model, the benchmark for everybody else. I just think he lets himself down.

‘But I’ve sort of changed my opinion of him today, you could tell that was genuine at the end, so thank you to him.’

Jordan Brown
It was an emotional victory for Brown after his rollercoaster ride (Picture: WST)

Brown’s remarkable story has seen him climb to these new heights after nearly giving up the game in his late twenties as he worked in a petrol station and struggled for motivation and any form of success.

He believes his journey has helped develop the immense bottle he showed, not only in the final, but in all five matches he won in a deciding frame over the Welsh Open, with another of those coming against the iron-willed Selby.

‘It makes you even more determined because I’ve hit rock bottom at times in the past,’ said Jordan. ‘There actually was a time when I genuinely wasn’t going to play the  game anymore, so to think of that and now is unbelievable,

‘I can’t quite believe this is all happening. I’m just an ordinary lad who loves to play snooker and is lucky enough to be playing it for a living.’

There was an incredible outpouring of congratulation and joy for Brown from his fellow players after his stunning win, with dozens of professionals sending him their best wishes on social media.

The down to earth, unassuming character ruffled plenty of feathers with his performances at Celtic Manor, but he is not out to do that away from the table, and he feels that is why people are pleased for him to do well.

‘I think I just give a good impression,’ he said. ‘I don’t really have any enemies in this world, I’m a genuine, nice lad,

‘I always  get on with anybody, don’t like to get myself in any trouble, don’t fall out with anybody. I think I give that impression out there, I’m just laid back as well, in general. I think that helps.’

The immensely likeable Brown was self-deprecating even after the sensational achievement, suggesting that anyone would have been out of their mind to take the bookmakers up on their 750/1 pre-tournament price on him.

‘It should have been 10 times that!’ Brown said. ‘They would have been mad to even have a pound on me, they might as well have thrown it down the drain.’

Jordan Brown

Clearly that did not turn out to be the case as he became the longest-priced winner of an event in snooker history and anyone who had fancied a flutter on him would be very thankful they did.

The £70,000 Brown earned himself this week is by far the biggest prize of his career, providing him a level of wealth he has never experienced and did not see coming so soon after turning pro in 2018.

He is not a man likely to get too big for his boots, though, and thanks to going through the toughest times just a few years ago, he is already focussed on the sensible option.

‘Even before today it was life-changing,’ Jordan said of his significant prize money, boosted by qualification for the Players Championship and Champion of Champions.

‘I was thinking to myself, “my God, I’m going to be sitting next Friday with five figures in my account!” I’ve never seen that amount of money before.

‘It’s going to take a while to sink in because I’m not going to know what to do with it, it’s so much money.

‘It’s going to set me up for a long time, I’m one of those people that will be responsible, investments and stuff like that. I’m absolutely not going wild, I’ll be very good at looking after it.’

After his performances at Celtic Manor, Brown can expect plenty more return on his snooker investment in the future.

Ronnie:

Ronnie O’Sullivan glad his comments spurred Jordan Brown on after shock Welsh Open defeat

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Ronnie O’Sullivan had nothing but praise for Jordan Brown (Picture: WST)

Ronnie O’Sullivan had nothing but praise for Jordan Brown after his stunning victory in the Welsh Open final on Sunday night, glad that his comments have helped spur the Northern Irishman on to success.

Brown completed a miraculous run at the Welsh Open this week by beating the Rocket 9-8 in the final at Celtic Manor in dramatic circumstances.

The 33-year-old came into the tournament with odds of 750/1 to lift the title but pulled off a string of upsets, including beating Mark Selby in the quarters and Stephen Maguire in the semi-finals.

After downing Maguire, Brown was faced with the prospect of taking on the Rocket in the final and was relishing the prospect after admitting he had been annoyed by O’Sullivan’s comments at last year’s World Championship.

Ronnie said he would have to lose an arm and a leg to drop out of the world’s top 50 and Brown, who came into this event ranked number 81, said they ‘didn’t go down well’ with him.

O’Sullivan insists they were comments meant to inspire players, though, and after his nail-biting loss in Wales, is glad Brown has used them in the best way possible.

‘Like I said, you can take it in two ways, a negative way and a positive way and Jordan’s took it in a positive way,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk.

‘He’s gone: “You know what, that’s what I needed to hear to motivate me.”

‘It’s worked for me in the past when people have doubted me and knocked me, I’ve just gone, “lovely.”

‘It’s the best inspiration you can get sometimes, so I’m looking for someone to knock me again.’

Brown has had a circuitous route to a ranking title, nearly giving up the game in his mid-twenties and only coming back onto the tour in 2018.

The Antrim Ferrari was then just one match away from dropping off tour last year before qualifying for the World Championship and turning his career around before surging on to this remarkable success.

Jordan Brown
(Picture: Eurosport)

O’Sullivan, despite the loss, is delighted for his conqueror, saying: ‘I don’t know  Jordan well enough to know his complete story but I’m over the moon for him to have got that victory today. How can you not be pleased for him?

‘I really enjoyed it, I really did, a good match to be involved in.

‘I was good, I could have been better, but I’ll take that game, scored okay, played some good safety. I’m not disappointed about how I played.’

O’Sullivan was remarkably chipper despite losing in a deciding frame of a ranking event final and insists he doesn’t get down about snooker matches anymore.

‘Listen, I’ve got my finger in quite a lot of pies now,’ he said. ‘This is one pie of seven or eight,

‘I’ve had a great week this week with some of the other fingers stuck in other pies. I’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, the snooker hasn’t been all bad.

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Jordan Brown is the first Northern Irishman to win the Welsh Open (Picture: WST)

‘I’ve had some other good stuff that’s gone on this week as well. I’m not just a snooker player now, I’m here because I want to be here and I’m playing just for the fun of it, which is a nice place to be in.’

O’Sullivan won his first ranking event title all the way back at the 1993 UK Championship and recalls what he did after, as Brown, a bit depressingly, celebrates his maiden ranking crown alone in a Newport hotel.

‘I think I went home, stopped off in a service station and got recognised for the first time, that was pretty cool,’ said Ronnie.

‘He can drink some beer out of that trophy, I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.’

So good to read … especially as opposed to the nasty reactions from some.

The 2021 Welsh Open – Ronnie wins his last 128 match in no time

Ronnie beat Robbie Williams by 4-0 yesterday afternoon. It took him 46 minutes! 

Here are the scores and stats:

WelshOpen2021ROSL128-ScoresWelshOpen2021ROSL128-Stats

The WST report is short:

WelshOpen2021ROSL128-1World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan put on a strong performance to brush aside Robbie Williams 4-0 and set up a mouth watering last 64 clash with Jimmy White.

The Rocket fired in breaks of 58, 122, 66 and 73 as he eased to the whitewash win in just 45 minutes.

O’Sullivan said: “I’m looking forward to playing Jimmy, it should be good fun. Hopefully we can both play well and put on a good show for the fans.

“I use every match as a practice session. I don’t want to play in every tournament, I don’t really want to go deep in every tournament. I just want to keep sharp and let most people know that I can still play.”

Eurosport provided something more substantial:

WELSH OPEN 2021 – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN CRUSHES ROBBIE WILLIAMS TO SET UP CLASH WITH JIMMY WHITE

Judd Trump is the favourite for the event, but he will need to improve on the performance he delivered against Zhao Jianbo in the first round. Shaun Murphy was extremely impressive in getting the better of Zak Surety and he will be confident about defending the title he won at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena 12 months ago. But Ronnie O’Sullivan looked in ominous form on Tuesday.

Ronnie O’Sullivan powered into the second round of the Welsh Open with a 4-0 win over Robbie Williams.
The world champion has looked sharp in recent weeks, impressing despite not qualifying from the group stage of the Championship League, and he oozed quality in disposing of Williams at the Celtic Manor Resort.

Breaks of 56, 66, 122 and 73 were the highlights of a 4-0 win that was secured in 45 minutes.

Speaking in the Eurosport studio with Andy Goldstein and White, O’Sullivan said of his performance level, which is always the subject of intense debate: “It’s quite strange I think everybody else is more worried and intrigued by my form than I am in many ways. I just go out there and play, have a bit of fun, enjoy it. Just kills a bit of time, obviously I like to play well but it doesn’t ruin me.

Williams went into the game knowing he could not afford errors, but he coughed one up early in the first frame and a break of 56 from O’Sullivan set the tone for the contest.

The underdog knocked in an excellent plant in the second frame to show his quality, but he unpicked the good work by missing a pink into the middle and O’Sullivan stepped in with a 122 – his 26th ton of the season and 1087th of his career.

Williams had chances in the third as O’Sullivan missed a few balls, but he did not take them and a 66 break enabled the world champion to take the third.

The fourth frame summed up the contest, as Williams left a long red above ground and O’Sullivan knocked in a 73 to secure the win and a meeting with Jimmy White in the second round.

O’Sullivan said: “Listen, if you look at the game and the history of the game there’s only been three or four players who’ve managed to sell tickets and Jimmy has done that as well as anybody. It’s probably only me, Jimmy, Alex Higgins maybe. So legend playing junior legend.

He was also interviewed by the excellent Phil Haigh:

Phil Haigh Tuesday 16 Feb 2021 7:40 pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan wants to keep playing snooker well into his sixties, taking inspiration from comedy icon Ken Dodd, and doesn’t see any reason why he can’t be playing a very high standard well into his fifties.

The Rocket was in fine form on Tuesday as he breezed past Robbie Williams and into the second round of the Welsh Open with a 4-0 victory at Celtic Manor.

The world champion is looking for his fifth title at this event and, as always, is among the favourite to be lifting the trophy on Sunday night.

The 45-year-old insists that winning tournaments is barely a secondary concern to him these days, but he wants and needs to keep competing in order to stay relevant for the exhibition circuit, which is his primary snooker love.

O’Sullivan takes on Jimmy White in the second round in Wales on Wednesday and he doesn’t see any reason why he can’t still be playing well as he approaches the Whirlwind’s age of 58.

My main thing is I want to do a Ken Dodd, he toured until the day he died,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk.

For me, that’s playing exhibitions and having fun and as long as I keep fit and healthy, I try and do 30 or 40 nights a year. I loved it, me and my mate on the road, it was like a road trip, we have so much fun.

I play enough snooker to be sharp enough for exhibitions, which is great. I can manage my diary much better, I like to be secure in what I’m doing, have control of what I’m doing.

55 should be the minimum really, [Steve] Davis was still playing good snooker at 55. If I’m still in good shape, playing good snooker, why not do exhibitions until I’m 65? If you’re still playing well, people are enjoying it, you’re still doing good things on the table, that would be great for me.

The reigning world champion is still looking to win his first tournament of the season since his superb triumph at the Crucible in August, whilst Judd Trump has been racking up titles.

The world number one has won four ranking titles this campaign and remarked that he would rather be winning a string of events over a season than just picking up a lone World Championship title.

The Rocket, unsurprisingly, doesn’t agree, saying the major titles in the game – the World Championship, Masters and UK Championship – are the only credible judge of a player.

O’Sullivan compared winning lots of other events to the golf career of Colin Montgomerie, while it was Tiger Woods taking home the biggest prizes.

‘It’s very difficult to say when you’re playing however many tournaments they play,’ said Ronnie when presented with Judd’s comments.

‘The only real yardstick that you can compare, that never changes, is the Worlds, the Masters and the UK. I think the same with golf and tennis.

Judd Trump on the World Championship:

‘I know winning the Worlds is an amazing achievement, but I’d much rather win five or six events a year than just pick up that lone World Championship.‘I’d rather have the consistency of playing well 50 weeks of the year and have a bad two weeks at the Worlds, rather than just play well for a couple of weeks and a bad 50 weeks‘It certainly makes me a lot happier playing well week-in-week-out than just peaking for one event. Obviously it would be nice to win them all but the Worlds is just one event, it’s exactly the same as every other tournament to me. The only difference is from people looking from the outside saying the Worlds is special, as a player every tournament is equally important.’ 

Everybody knows that it’s the big tournaments, that’s where the big players produce their best. That’s the only constant way of judging how somebody’s done, but everybody has a different approach to how they want to do it.

‘My approach is less on winning tournaments, less on rankings and just enjoying it and having fun. Other players are like Colin Montgomerie, he dominated the European Tour for so many seasons but couldn’t quite win the majors because Tiger Woods was there and he was a hard man to stop.

‘There’s no wrong or right way, it’s whatever floats your boat.

‘Sullivan has the opportunity to lift the Ray Reardon Trophy on Sunday for the first time, with the prize renamed after his old mentor since the last time the Rocket won this event.

The world champ says that his connection with Reardon runs much deeper than the trophy making a difference and they still have a close relationship to this day.

The relationship I have with Ray is much more important than a trophy, it would be great if Ray was here to hand the trophy over, obviously that would be a special moment,’ he said.

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O’Sullivan credits Reardon with teaching how to become a winner (Picture: Getty)

‘Any tournament is great to be in and great to participate in. The relationship I had with Ray and the time we spent together is what I’ll remember most.

‘We still chat on the phone, not as much as we used to, but I still check in with him now and again. I’m sure he’ll have been watching today so I’ll get a little text from him telling me I was rubbish and could improve in certain areas.’

Having skipped the German Masters and the Shoot Out, this is the Rocket’s first ranking event of the year and since he spent Christmas Day working with a homeless charity.

It is something the Rocket does on an annual basis and gets a lot of pleasure out of.

I haven’t done much since, because I haven’t got masses of time, but Christmas Day is my chance to get involved and do stuff for the homeless.

‘When I’m playing a bit less and travelling less I’ll do more, I’m still involved in certain projects.

‘I do it every Christmas, go and feed the homeless, I enjoy it, giving back, seeing people that are down on their luck, haven’t got much positive stuff going on, to be able to be with them is quite nice.

‘I don’t think they watch too much snooker, but as long as you get a smile out of them, it’s all good.’

O’Sullivan takes on White on Wednesday in the second round of the Welsh Open.

I have put the part of the text that refers to Judd Trump’s quotes in a different colour to make the it easier to read/understand as more Ronnie quotes follow immediately and the separation is not very obvious in the original presentation.

As usual with Ronnie there is a bit of contradiction … he doesn’t care to win events but would dearly love to receive the trophy, presented by Ray Reardon, this week. Never mind … as he would say “It’s all good….”. 😉

Ronnie was in the studio in the evening.

A bit of light stuff with Laila and Ronnie

Laila Rouass makes her return on UK television in the Holby City series and, of course, the media have been at it, but not in a bad way.

Laila and Ronnie have been on Sunday Kitchen last week-end … if you wondered why he wasn’t in the ES studio at the Shoot Out here is your answer…

‘When he winds me up’ Laila Rouass jibes at Ronnie O’Sullivan on Saturday Kitchen

LAILA ROUASS jokingly mocked partner Ronnie O’Sullivan on Saturday Kitchen today as she revealed the food she cooks for the world snooker champion when he “winds her up”.

Saturday Kitchen: Laila Rouass on cooking aubergine for Ronnie

Saturday Kitchen’s Matt Tebbutt welcomed actress Laila Rouass and world snooker champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan, on the BBC cooking show this morning. In the usual fashion, the chef asked the guests what their food heaven and hell were but was taken aback when the actress joked she rustles up Ronnie’s least favourite food when the couple clash.

Matt introduced: “Morning guys, we’ve got a couple of guests today actress Laila Rouass and world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“You’ve both done the show independently before now we’re doing things slightly different today.

“[Laila’s] food heaven is [Ronnie’s] food hell and visa versa, is that right?”

Revealing her food heaven, the actress said: “My food heaven oh god what was it? I can’t remember. Aubergine and coriander.

Read more: Ronnie O’Sullivan’s diet to lose weight and ‘feel 100 percent’

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Saturday Kitchen: Laila Rouass hit out at partner Ronnie O’Sullivan (Image: BBC)

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Saturday Kitchen: Laila and Ronnie revealed their food heaven and hell (Image: BBC)

“I love aubergine because my mum cooked it, it’s Lebanese food and my mum loves cooking Lebanese food. I’ve grown up with aubergine.

“But you’re not a fan, though?” Matt asked Ronnie.

“It’s very hard to get it right. If it’s right it’s okay but if it’s not I don’t like it and coriander is a complete no-no.”

“Some people taste coriander and they think it tastes soapy,” Matt said. “Ronnie, what’s your idea of food heaven?”

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Saturday Kitchen: Matt joked it was “amazing” the couple got on with each other (Image: BBC)

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Saturday Kitchen: Matt was amused by the couple’s eating habits (Image: BBC)

“I love fish cod is nice anything fishy,” the snooker champion replied.

“I hate cod I really don’t like I’ve tried to cook it,” Laila commented.

“It’s amazing you still get on,” Matt joked.

“She’s adapted her menu. I put a menu out every Monday,” Ronnie remarked.

“When he winds me up I just make aubergine for supper and then he just starves,” Laila joked.

Later, Matt quizzed the couple on their respective favourite foods and why they were drawn to them. 

Laila revealed: “My mother was a chef and her speciality was Lebanese food so they roast a lot of aubergine and that’s something I grew up with. But [Ronnie] can’t stand aubergine.”

“It doesn’t do anything for me, aubergine it doesn’t have any flavour and coriander does the opposite for me it kills me,” Ronnie said.  “My mate calls me the fish man because I always have fish wherever I go,” he continued. “Red meat can sit around too long whereas fish goes and I can get on with what I need to do.”

“That’s quite visual, thanks for that,” Matt joked and Laila added: “On a Saturday morning.”

Discussing her imminent return to Holby City as Sahira Shah, the actress said: “I left 2012 and so it’s good to be back. Sahira is a go-getter she’s really talented, she’s really ambitious. It’s like visiting an old friend going back to Holby.

“I was supposed to start filming in May but then we went into total lockdown so it delayed until October hence I only stopped filming two weeks ago.”

“If you’ve got to touch somebody they’ve got to be in your bubble so they bringing in somebody that’s in your bubble,” she explained.

“There was one day Ronnie wasn’t playing and I said Ronnie can come and they looked at his pictures and they said, ‘No, he’s just too hairy we’re never going to be able to match them’ so he didn’t come in in the end.”

And Laila has got Ronnie interested in the Buddah and Greek philosphers … as well as being “boring” in everyday’s life.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Laila Rouass’s new life – Buddhism, green tea and early nights

EXCLUSIVE Laila says the snooker champion’s rock and roll days are behind him as he now prefers green tea and turning in at 11pm

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Laila Rouass and her fiance, former wild man of snooker Ronnie O’Sullivan

He’s not quite at the pipe and slippers stage but it looks like The Rocket’s turbo boosters have been turned down a few notches.

For years, snooker speed king Ronnie O’Sullivan grabbed the headlines for his booze and drug antics as well as his ­wizardry at the table.

But at 45, a father of three – and even a grandad – the current world champion really does have a more philosophical approach to life.

And he can thank fiancée Laila Rouass for that.

The Holby City actress has been researching the ­teachings and methods of the Buddha and Greek philosophers as part of her studies in wellbeing.

She says Ronnie has bought into the idea too and is a calmer cueman as a result.

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Laila says she’s been inspired by philosophers to help her future husband Ronnie (Image: Alpha Press)

Gone are the days – and nights – of living it up with rock giants like Ronnie Wood and Liam Gallagher.

Now, says Laila, 49, her fella is more likely to be found tucked up in bed for an early night with a cup of green tea.

Having seen the effect on Ronnie, the former Footballers’ Wives star is now setting up a workshop, a ­website and an Instagram page to help ­others through the stresses of lockdown.

Laila, who has been with Ronnie for nine years, said: “I enrolled on a Yale University course on wellbeing and happiness which has led to me starting a new initiative about self-compassion.

“It’s been a lifesaver for me. I’m ­putting together a workshop using the likes of Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, whose philosophy is about dealing with setbacks – like at the moment.

….
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Two Ronnies – O’Sullivan and Wood – along with Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones back in 2004 (Image: Richard Young/REX/Shutterstock)

“To Epictetus, all external events are beyond our control. We should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately.

“But individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through self-discipline.

“Buddha’s whole view was about what happens in life not being permanent.

“It’s about changing your mind state. That’s kind of what I’ve done through lockdown. In some ways, it’s been so ­useful for me to have this time.

“Our mindset also affects how we treat ourselves and how we eat.”

Speaking about how her new philosophy has affected Ronnie, Laila added: “I did the course but he’s kind of got into it as a result.

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Ronnie now has a healthier lifestyle (Image: REX/Shutterstock)

“There’s a thing called ‘Intuitive Eating’ which sounds a bit Gwyneth Paltrow/hippy dippy, but it’s based in scientific fact and research.

“It’s a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals.

“Essentially, it’s the opposite of a traditional diet. It doesn’t impose guidelines about what to avoid and what or when to eat. It’s listening to your body and eating food that makes your body feel good.

“So Ronnie’s started realising, like me, that this stuff actually works. It’s just small practices that you can include in your daily life that make you happier.

“He’s started doing it and is loving it. He knows that if he has a big, fat Maccy D’s he’s not going to feel good afterwards.

“But it’s not easy to get into that mindset and break old habits. It’s easy to realise what it is, but it takes ­practice to actually do it.” It all seems to be having an impact on Ronnie.

….

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Ronnie O’Sullivan plays a shot during the first round match on day two of the 2020 ManBetX Welsh Open (Image: Getty)

Laila went on: “He’s so boring these days. He likes watching TV, going out for dinner.

“All those rock and roll days are well and truly over.

“Before the pandemic, I’d be like, ‘Let’s go out! Let’s go to the club. Let’s go downstairs and have a dance’. And he’d be, ‘No, mate, no, no, no’ – that’s what he’s like – so we’d be having our green tea at 11 o’clock at night.”

Charismatic Ronnie has long been regarded as the sport’s most naturally gifted player – and its greatest ever.

He has six world titles and many believe he would have more but for off-the-table distractions.

Ronnie has turned to sports psychiatrist Steve Peters over the years, with great success.

He has said that he fancies giving something back himself when he hangs up his cue, possibly as a drugs and alcohol counsellor or carer.

“When I finish playing I want to train as a counsellor. I want to understand the business and mental health side.”

Fans will hope a retired Ronnie is a few years off, of course. He has the small matter of the world championships to defend in April.

He doesn’t make himself favourite to win. But then he’s always been philosophical like that.

Laila might have got Ronnie into the Buddah, early nights and green tea, but she failed to get him on Holby City … and that’s because he’s too hairy!

Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘too hairy’ for Holby City role with girlfriend Laila Rouass

Sahira Shah (Laila Rouassa) will make her return to the hospital tomorrow to run Darwin Ward and over the weekend, Laila was on Saturday Kitchen with her husband and snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.

With soaps using the two metre rule when filming, it means any scenes that involve two characters being in close proximity either have to be altered or, a family member must be called in to replace the other actor. During Laila and Ronnie’s appearance on Saturday Kitchen, they revealed he wasn’t able to be used as a body double because he was too hairy to be a patient.

Laila told presenter Matt Tebutt: ‘It’s so funny. What happens now is if you’ve got to touch somebody, like a patient, you’ve got to know them, they’ve got to be in your bubble. So they bring in somebody that’s in your bubble and just cut away. I was like ‘oh yeah Ronnie can come’ and they looked at his pictures and they said ‘no no, he’s just too hairy – we’re never going to be able to match them’.

Laila continued: ‘So he didn’t come in in the end. I think it would have been fun to have him as a supporting artist. I think it’s the Italian [in him].’

Well, having seen it close-up, I can’t argue with the”hairy” bit!

Now, surely that’s enough gossipy gossip  for an entire year.

I promise, I’m back to snooker tomorrow!

 

 

Ronnie discusses why snooker players are particularly exposed to depression

In an exclusive interview with Desmond Kane, Ronnie explains why snooker players are particularly exposed to depression, how to manage it and about his desire to help others.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN EXCLUSIVE: ‘CAN YOU JUSTIFY FEELING LIKE S***?’ – WHY DEPRESSION STALKS SNOOKER

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is keen to help snooker confront its mental health malady during the UK’s third national lockdown. O’Sullivan has battled depression throughout his life and is not surprised to discover a number of players opening up about their own experiences of the illness during such a bleak time for society.

RonnieAboutDepression

BY DESMOND KANE

Amid potting black balls, the black dog of depression is never far from the darkened domains of the professional snooker table. During the global coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing onset of a third national lockdown in the UK prior to Christmas, the old green baize has been disturbed by some despairing comments from some of its leading figures about a familiar incurable gloom affecting the human condition.

Former world champions Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy and world semi-finalist Gary Wilson have all opened up in recent weeks about a sense of personal despair blighting their mental health.

Their revelations come after the former German Masters winner Martin Gould – who lost 9-8 to Selby in an epic European Masters final in September – explained how he almost quit the sport before the UK’s first lockdown last March after seeking medical help because “I felt mentally and physically drained” in fighting his inner turmoil.

Selby revealed during the Masters that he contemplated suicide as a teenager after the premature death of his father David when he was only 16. He continues to take medication to help him cope.

“When people are going through depression it’s very tough and times like this don’t make it any easier because you’re locked in your house and you have so much time to think about stuff,” said the former world number one in an interview with Eurosport.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has always spoken openly and candidly about the importance of mental health and physical well-being having faced bigger challenges in confronting himself than any opponent he has met during a gilded 29-year career that brought him a sixth world title last August.

Ronnie about depression tweet

He is keen to use his own personal experience of anguish by providing help, support and advice on the best way to cope with the illness via his social media platforms.

“I thought can we do some stuff to help people by putting a few videos online,” said O’Sullivan. “Just all sorts of stuff and we’re looking to produce a lot more content and channel it into a certain area where I have an interest.

“If you feel like you can help someone, it’s great you can do it from a point of view where I can actually enjoy it and have something to give back.

“I understand a bit about that side of mental health if you like, and that is definitely something I’m passionate about.

I DON’T THINK IT’S HEALTHY TO BE IN A ROOM HITTING BALLS FOR FOUR, FIVE AND SIX HOURS. THAT’S WHAT SNOOKER PLAYERS GENERALLY DO.

“Most people go down the club, have a laugh and chat with their mates while they are playing, but when it becomes a job you don’t talk.

“You just keep quiet, concentrate and stay in that bubble for as long as you can. I just think that’s not healthy in general to do that day in, day out.”

O’Sullivan checked into a hospital for several days in 2016 suffering from exhaustion after lashing out in a dressing room after a 10-7 win over David Gilbert in the first round of the World Championship.

The record 37-times ranking event winner is not alone in suffering the loneliness of the long-distance potter. It is an affliction the game’s greatest player has described as “snooker depression” during a gloriously successful but wildly undulating rise to the summit of his sport. It is an ailment which is instantly recognisable to several of his fellow professionals.

“I’ve got no motivation to play snooker, to get out of bed, I’m struggling to see a purpose or an end goal,” said the 2019 world semi-finalist Gary Wilson during the Championship League earlier this month. “I don’t know what the experts would say, but it sounds like depression and that’s what I’ve been going through.”

Apart from the World Championship in Sheffield last August, snooker has been shunted behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena next to the MK Dons football ground.

Murphy, the 2005 world champion, admits the lockdown took a heavy toll on him as he battled weight gain without the oxygen of his daily practice routine from a sport that has found itself marooned in Milton Keynes to enable players to earn a living amid constant Covid-19 testing and isolating in hotel rooms since last June.

“When we did return, we were trapped in a hotel in Milton Keynes, I just really struggled with it. I didn’t go and see a doctor or anything, but I would say I was borderline suffering with depression really. I was very low,” he said.

O’Sullivan enjoys running for fun to keep his mental compass pointing in the right direction, but feels the solitary existence of a snooker player is detrimental to achieving harmony away from the table.

“At least in football, you have your mates to lean on,” commented O’Sullivan. “They know when you are not having a good time and know what to say to pick you up.

“In some team sports, they actively seek out different players because everyone complements each other, but in snooker you don’t get that.

“Even in golf, you get to have a caddie and if you choose the right person, they can have an influence on how your mental state is and how your mood is.
“In snooker, you don’t get that, so that is why I find it really challenging.

FOR A LOT OF THE SNOOKER PLAYERS, I CAN UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEMS BECAUSE IT’S NOT THE HEALTHIEST OF WAYS TO SPEND YOUR TIME. I’VE HAD TO MELLOW A BIT TO KEEP PLAYING AND BECOME A BIT PHILOSOPHICAL TO KEEP MY SANITY, BUT NOT EVERYBODY IS IN THAT BOAT.”

O’Sullivan admits in the past he would accept a low mental state as a natural by-product of his desire to win trophies, but believes he has had to curtail his own expectations to cope.

He has been helped by the sports psychiatrist Steve Peters since 2011, winning three of his six world titles over the past decade after working closely with the Middlesbrough-born professor, author of the 2012 book The Chimp Paradox, which has sold over one million copies.

The toughest frame in snooker appears to be building a positive frame of mind that can buffet the mental storms that rage. Sportsmen should not define themselves by material success in their respective fields.

Are you a positive person who can motivate others?” said Peters. “Are you kind? Do you have integrity? If you are measuring success against your values – rather than what car you own or how much you earn – then building self-esteem is in your own hands.”

O’Sullivan feels that not every player can treat success and failure the same in trying to justify their self-worth to the wider world.

“Everybody is at different stages of their careers,” he explained. “When you are in your pomp, and getting victories, trophies and are at number one you don’t mind taking the snooker depression because you think I’m getting rewarded for it.

BUT IF YOU ARE PUTTING THAT EFFORT IN AND AREN’T GETTING ANYTHING BACK, GETTING BEATEN IN THE FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD ROUNDS ALL THE TIME, AND IT’S STILL LEAVING YOU FEELING LIKE S***, IT’S A LOT HARDER TO TAKE AND HANDLE.

“So what you do? Do you become philosophical? So it’s like a self-preservation thing, but with that you probably lose that intensity.

“Rather than play with the attitude it’s life-and-death, you think if you win, you win, if you lose, you lose, it doesn’t really matter.

“But then if you don’t play with the attitude that it’s life-and-death, are you really committed to wanting it as bad as the other guy, possibly?

IF SOMETHING IS HURTING BAD, AS LONG AS THE REWARD IS GOOD ENOUGH, I DON’T MIND HURTING, BUT AS LONG AS THE REWARD DOESN’T JUSTIFY THE HURT, YOU THINK, ‘HOLD ON, I’M NOT UTILISING MY TIME IN THE RIGHT WAY’.

“For me, I’ve had to get a bit more philosophical because I’m not winning as much as I used to. Why would I want to hurt after putting all that effort in? It’s all about getting the right balance really and how to approach it.”

O’Sullivan has consulted the six-times world champion Steve Davis on how he managed to cope with the perception of failure when Stephen Hendry usurped him as snooker’s dominant force in the 1990s.

Davis recovered from trailing O’Sullivan 8-4 to lift his third Masters in 1997, but the last of his 28 ranking event victories came two years earlier at the 1995 Welsh Open, 21 years before he retired from playing the sport.

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“When I spoke to Davis, he said to me once the 10 years when Hendry came on the scene and began dominating were the worst 10 years of his life because he was trying to find a way to compete with Hendry,” said O’Sullivan.

“It took him 10 years to finally give up, and I think once he gave up in his mind, he started to enjoy it again.

“He would turn up, hit a few balls, get the odd result and win a tournament. He was just as happy with his defeats as he was with his wins. You end up not getting as disappointed if you lose, but don’t get as excited when you win.

“You flick that switch off. You detach emotionally from wanting it so bad. By doing that, you don’t get fired up like you used to which is like a self-preservation thing. You don’t get the joys of winning.

WHEN I WON THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, I WASN’T OVER THE MOON. I THOUGHT, ‘OKAY, THAT WAS NICE, I’VE SURPRISED MYSELF,’ BUT IT WASN’T LIKE THE OTHER FIVE TIMES WHEN I WANTED IT SO BADLY.

“It’s a really fine line to work out what approach you take to it.”

Desmond Kane

WHAT SNOOKER PLAYERS HAVE SAID ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

MARK ALLEN, 2018 MASTERS CHAMPION

Some days I wake up and I just can’t be bothered, I don’t have the motivation to do anything. It does get very lonely when you’re looking at the four walls of a hotel room for most of the year. It can be a great life, but it can also be tough and I suspect there are others secretly battling away with this, feeling they have to deal with it on their own as I did for a long time.”

GRAEME DOTT, 2006 WORLD CHAMPION

As far as my depression is concerned, it is something I will probably have to live with for the rest of my life, but I recognise the warning signs now and know when it is time to go back to the doctor and ask for more tablets.

MARTIN GOULD, 2016 GERMAN MASTERS CHAMPION

I didn’t want to be there. I just turned up and thought I’d get the match out of the way. I had no expectation of winning, and I thought to myself: ‘I can’t keep doing this’. I would have been more than happy to drop off the tour, give up playing on the main tour and concentrate on playing some seniors stuff later on after giving myself a year or two to get back to normal.”

SHAUN MURPHY, 2005 WORLD CHAMPION

Some of the comments on social media are just vile. I often wonder how we got into this body shaming culture, when did we start bullying each other about the way we look? I wanted to do something about it. I decided on New Year’s Day that I would start highlighting people saying these things. I’m going to start calling it out when they are vicious and bullying you. If you aren’t mentally strong, these things can have a real knock-on effect. We’ve seen some really high profile celebrities take their own life. It is awful really.

MARK SELBY, 2014, 2016 AND 2017 WORLD CHAMPION

When I was going through it – and even now, I’m still on the medication to this day – I went to see the professional people and they were telling me to do things that you enjoy and try to keep your mind active. But it’s difficult when you go through times like this because the things you do enjoy you cannot go and do. The only thing you can do is speak to the professional people, speak to your family and cry for help and get them to help you as well.

GARY WILSON, 2019 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINALIST

I’m just totally gone, including snooker. I can’t play at all. I feel the worst I’ve ever felt and can’t see a way back anymore. I let John (Higgins) back in and apologised for the foul as he was plumb in. All I could do. First world problems. Although I do feel depressed generally and I’m not one, as many will know, to play on stuff like that or use them words lightly.

 

And that’s all top players speaking out here. You have to wonder what those who struggle to earn a living, just put food on the table and pay their bills are going through.