Steve Davis has revealed his fears that Ronnie O'Sullivan's career has reached a dangerous crossroads, and insists that only a swift rediscovery of the joy of competition can prevent a misfiring "Rocket" from losing touch with his rivals.
O'Sullivan admitted this week at the Welsh Open, after another first-round exit, this time to Welshman Ryan Day, that he envisaged things worsening before they improved in terms of his results and ranking, at No 10 his lowest for 17 years.
The 35-year-old has been involved in a prolonged dispute with his former partner over access to his children, and also had to cope with the new circumstances of father Ronnie Snr being released from prison after serving 18 years for murder.
Absences at important tournaments have cost the three-time world champion match sharpness and irritated officials, fans, rivals and World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn. Surprisingly when O'Sullivan has turned up, he has been getting turned over.
The six-time world champion Davis, 53, believes only recapturing the enjoyment of sporting combat can save O'Sullivan. He said: "If you stop enjoying the competition, then you have a serious problem. It must be the case for Ronnie. If he is not being driven by the idea of entering events and playing in them, then that is the nub of it. If he has lost it forever, and competing is no longer a driving force, then that is the end. Ronnie seems flat before, during and after.
"He seems to have lost the thrill. Maybe he could still get himself up for the world championship. He has talked about walking away from the game, and there is a possibility that if he deprived himself of it, he'd miss it. For Ronnie to lose [desire] this early at 35 is an issue. Perhaps it's burnout, we don't know."
Davis also believes that the sport would cope if O'Sullivan quit. Davis added: "I don't think it makes any difference how popular he is – if he decides to pack up, the game won't suffer. No one has ever been bigger than the sport, and snooker will continue regardless, it won't be any skin off snooker's nose."
On the table yesterday, John Higgins cemented his position at snooker's summit by reaching the Welsh Open final. The world No 1 is the defending champion in Newport and eased to a 6-2 win over Ali Carter.
He will face close friend Stephen Maguire today after the 29-year-old set up the first major all-Scottish showpiece for six years.
Maguire saw off the 2008 Welsh Open winner Mark Selby 6-5 in a gruelling encounter late last night to stay on course for a fifth ranking title after a three-year drought. He said: "It's great to be back in a major final, it has been a while. And it makes it extra special to be playing John."Reuse content