Rocket science: Sports psychiatrist to the stars helps keep Ronnie O'Sullivan in Crucible contention

The reigning champ was losing in the second round of the World Championship. Enter Dr Steve Peters. A few words later – victory
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The Independent Online

One of the problems sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters faces these days, given his astonishing success in transforming the career of Ronnie O'Sullivan and his work in inspiring Britain's cyclists to so many gold medals, is being everywhere he is wanted at once.

O’Sullivan, the defending champion at the Dafabet World Championship, was pushed into producing his brilliant best by world No 15 Joe Perry at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield yesterday, knocking in decisive breaks of 124 and 113 at the end to win 13-11  and secure a place in the quarter-finals.

It takes the five-time champion’s winning run of games at the venue to 12, having lifted the title for the last two years. That streak coincides with his work with Peters – heavily involved with Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers this season – and his now famous “caging the chimp” approach to mind management, one that stopped O’Sullivan retiring and has seen him hit new highs.

O’Sullivan was struggling against an impressive Perry on Thursday and Friday, trailing 5-3 and then  9-7 coming in to yesterday, and having not wanted to drag Peters away from his Anfield work in the week, he was grateful for a visit and breakfast pep talk before the  final session.

“I did see Steve briefly this morning here, and I really appreciated it,” said O’Sullivan. “He is very busy with Liverpool as they try to win the League. I know that means a lot to him and people in Liverpool to win this League, that is a city where I have a lot of friends and I couldn’t take all his time this week.

“There is a lot of emotion around the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough as well and that is more important than me getting help.

“He offered to come Thursday, but I said you do what you need to do with them – however he saw I could do with a bit of help after the first two sessions. And just seeing him here helped, he said a couple of things I should take on board and it made a massive difference.

“It was a real fightback, I was behind virtually the whole time and he [Perry] got on top of me, which hasn’t been happening in my matches in the last couple of years. I was never in control until the end.

“The fans got their money’s worth, it was more exciting than most of my finals, and one of the most exciting matches I have ever had at the Crucible. It takes a special temperament the Crucible, it either brings the best out of you or the worst. And maybe the experience is my ace card. If I find my game I am okay, if I don’t I am a fucking miserable bastard.”

Perry has only beaten O’Sullivan once in a major tournament over a 23-year professional career, but he came so close in Sheffield.

“I was blown away at the end by the best player there has ever been,” said the 39-year-old from Chatteris in Cambridgeshire. “I put him under pressure, he missed balls, I gave it everything and then he does that. I had him where I wanted him and a few years ago I would have won, but he is a different animal now.”

O’Sullivan will play either the 2005 champion Shaun Murphy or the in-form Marco Fu from Hong Kong for a place in the semi-finals in a match that will start on Tuesday.

The man known as the “Rocket” once again avoided a deciding frame in Sheffield by the skin of his teeth. He has not had one since 2005.

If Peters can help bring a long-craved Premier League success for Liverpool and an O’Sullivan title hat-trick at the Crucible, maybe we really can all start to dream. Next stop for him – Roy Hodgson’s backroom staff, the England team and Brazil.

Meanwhile, Barry Hawkins is not going to be top of Ricky Walden’s Christmas card list after reaching the quarter-finals at the Crucible with a 13-11 win over his friend and rival. Last year’s finalist Hawkins won eight frames in succession against Walden the semi-final 12 months ago and he claimed eight of the last 10 this time from standing 9-5 adrift. “He was gutted, but took it like a gentleman,” said world No4 Hawkins. “There will be a bit of abuse the next time we go out for a drink.”