Snooker: Ronnie O'Sullivan's back – after a few hours' practice with a delivery driver

'The Rocket' will defend his world title despite not playing at top level since quitting last May

Ronnie O'Sullivan has announced he will return to the Crucible to defend his world title, before admitting he has no idea whether his comeback will end in tears.

The four-time world champion, who has played just one competitive match in the past year, has accepted a wild card to defend his world title at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, having become "bored" of his self-imposed snooker sabbatical.

O'Sullivan, the former world No 1, has only practised for "10 days in the last nine months" and admitted that his recent matches have been against his friend Alex, a delivery driver who calls round his house for a game when dropping off the player's favourite takeaway Chinese meal.

"I've embarrassed myself many times. I get used to that," admitted O'Sullivan. "I've been prepared and ready for major events before, gone out there and felt embarrassed by my performances. I am not worried about that.

"I'm very match-rusty. I have not been in any intense situations so it's going to be a tough call to go in there with no match practice behind me. I might get smashed in Sheffield. I'm going in to the unknown. It's a massive challenge," O'Sullivan added.

"There is no pressure on me. The most important thing is to have an aim in my life. Snooker has always given me that. This is a chance to get a bit of routine in my life.

"I was so bored sometimes. I moaned about the pressures and not playing well but two or three months ago I thought, 'I'd take that back like a shot now', so hopefully I won't be as hard on myself, hopefully I will enjoy it more and enjoy playing rather than putting myself under pressure in tournaments to succeed.

"I was a bit bored just going out for lunches and chilling out. I needed the rest but I just thought it was time to get back to doing what I've done for a lot of my life.

"I have a different perspective on it now. I thought maybe it was worth giving it another whirl. I feel refreshed. I love the challenge, I know what I'm capable of. I know how good I am. I hope a few people do write me off because that'll make me stronger."

O'Sullivan, whose absence has seen him slump to No 24 in the world rankings, took time off after winning his fourth Crucible crown last May. He announced his comeback in November, but then changed his mind, citing "personal problems" for the need to take a break. And despite the announcement, the 37-year-old admits that the personal problems which have plagued his career may never disappear.

"I can't make any guarantees," he said. "All I know is that I have to make a start. I have tried to put everything on hold, get things resolved. Hopefully they will be resolved. If they are not I will readdress it and see if I am still capable of taking on a commitment of being a professional sportsman and play. As a professional sportsman you want your private life to be settled and that hasn't been the case over the last three years."

Jimmy White, himself a six-time Crucible finalist, was at O'Sullivan's side for the announcement and has no doubts that his good friend will better Stephen Hendry's record of seven world titles.

"I think he'll beat it, definitely," said White. "They're different animals. Hendry had the killer instinct and the dedication, but Ronnie has been away partying and doing what he wanted to do in life. But now it's time to prove what he's got.

"Ronnie is such a natural genius the game still amazes him. That's the drug that keeps him going."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

AX Developer With EPOS Experience

£450 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Dynamics AX / Developer / AX2012...

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz