Snooker: An email conversation with Ronnie Sullivan

He is the most naturally gifted snooker player the world has seen, with a host of titles to his name, but 'the Rocket' has been known to explode. Now he is preparing for lift-off into the world of pool.
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The Independent Online

You're committed to only four snooker tournaments this season to concentrate on building a second career, playing pool in America. What's your first event, what crowds do they get, and what's the money like for winning a major event? To be honest, I don't know. I know that might sound as if I'm jumping into the unknown but it is a little bit like that. They have still to decide on certain things, but basically this is a new series with new rules and new equipment. The money is substantial - for the winners - because the events are geared to reward the top players, not to giving the No 231 in the world an income ... which is the case in snooker. I don't really see me playing in the States until early next year, because I do have two or three BBC events to play in and the Betfred League, which I enjoy playing in because it's something different - it keeps me occupied.

What's your favourite city in America and why? There are a couple of places I like, but actually I think I've still to see the place I'm really looking for. I have this picture in my head of driving down one of those big roads in California, roof down, arm hanging out the window, sun pouring down on top of me. That's what I want. Don't know when or if I'll get it, but if I stay long enough in America, I might.

What was the most extreme thought that went through your head during that traumatic World Championship quarter-final against Peter Ebdon this year as Ebdon came back from 10-6 down to win 13-11? The longer the game went the more I wanted out of there. It wasn't the case of losing a snooker match. I just didn't want to be anywhere near a snooker match, a snooker table, a snooker venue. I'd just had enough. It took me five months to get those thoughts out of my head, and just when I did - after chilling out during the summer - I get a call that I'm playing in a tournament in Belfast. And it all comes rushing back to me...

Are you the most naturally talented snooker player the world has ever seen? If not, who is? A lot of people have said that and, without being big-headed, I'd say yes. I'm good at what I do when everything is going right. When things aren't right I'm the same as everyone else, missing shots, making mistakes. There isn't a player yet who has been able to play 110 per cent every day.

Snooker has suffered an obvious fall-out, not least financial, from the ban on tobacco advertising. Who should take the blame for that: the Government, for the ban, or snooker's ruling body, for failing to plan ahead? They knew tobacco was going about six or seven years ago. It's easy to say they should have gone for other sponsors then, but they were on to a good thing in terms of what was being spent and prize money. No one was going to say, "Think of the future - take less pay." Well, actually there were one or two - but who was going to listen to them then? A lot of people have had a chance at running snooker and we're in the state we are. Hindsight is a great thing and maybe if we had gone with either the TSN or Altium tours, things might have been different. We may never know.

Let's play word association. After each of the following players, you respond with the first word that comes into your head. First one: Alex Higgins. Genius.

Stephen Hendry. Machine.

Ray Reardon. Ha ha. One word? Someone who knows the game inside out but thinks he can play golf!

Steve Davis. Legend.

Shaun Murphy. Eh? Yeah, good.

Which sporting event would you pay most money to see? I don't know. Yes I do. I think if there was a boxing fight I'd really want to see then I'd probably pay a few quid for that. Like a couple of years ago when Tyson and Holyfield were knocking seven bells out of each other. It would take something special for me to want to pay to see it. Again, if England got to the World Cup final then maybe I'd cough up for that. But there aren't too many events or occasions that I'd spend my cash to see. Different if I was invited ... then I might go!

You're an Arsenal fan. What's gone wrong with them? And how would you fix it? And is it true you used to support Spurs? And isn't now a good time to switch back? I don't think anything has gone wrong other than lose a couple of big players and not have the same money as others. Things will be different after the new gaff goes up. I'm happy. I'll stick with Arsenal, although some people have joked about me jumping to Chelsea. No chance.

Which one losing match from your career would you play again, given the chance? I've lost loads of matches. I don't think I've ever played any of them in my head again let alone wanted to play them again. I don't dwell on those kind of things. There isn't any point. Anyway, I've had bigger wins than I've had losses.

What's the most money you've spent in a day? And on what? Taking away the normal big things like houses and cars and the likes, probably on the gear for my lingerie shop. [Viva La Diva, in Soho]. That was a bit like, "How much?"

What's the funniest thing you've seen or heard? There have been some very funny things going on in snooker in recent years ... but none of them make me laugh now! In snooker, I've left a few "smells" for other guys coming to the table. Or when Alan Hughes, the MC, has been ready to do his announcement and you throw his cards up in the air. Watching him panic and stutter at the same time is a laugh.

To celebrate your new career, you can throw a party and invite any six people from history. Who and why? Where's the bash? What do you eat and drink? Anyone? In history? Let me think. I know ... no. I'd have Ray Reardon and his wife. That's two. My mum, my dad, my sister and my girlfriend ... and me. That's six. Why would I want to invite anyone else around my place? Next thing I know, I'd be reading about myself in the paper. There are not many I can trust ... and I'm happy to keep it like that. I'd have the bash near home and we'd have Chinese or Italian. Simple, no hassle.

One last question, a little psychological test, where you pick adjectives that best describe your favourite animal, the ocean, a rainforest, and being inside a balloon, and then we can interpret what that's supposed to say about you. OK? No. I've heard this one. Bollocks.

Ronnie O'Sullivan will be part of Team Highland Spring this season, along with Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire, Mark Williams, Ken Doherty, Marco Fu, Anthony Hamilton and Mark King.

* Born: 5 December, 1975.

* Nickname: 'The Rocket'.

* Turned professional: 1992. World ranking: No 1 (won five of the 10 main tour events last season).

* Ranking tournament victories: 18.

* World titles: 2 (2001, 2004).

* Career prize-money: £4,618,760.

* Landmarks: Scored first century aged 10, first 147 aged 15 and turned professional at 16. Won first major title - the UK Championship - in 1993, aged 17, and remains youngest winner of a ranking tournament. Six tournament 147s include five of the quickest in history.

* Setbacks: 1993 win was even more remarkable because his father, Ronnie Snr, had just been sentenced to life for murder. Ronnie Jnr's mother later jailed for tax evasion. On the circuit, fined £20,000 in 1996 for assaulting an official, and stripped of 1998 Irish Masters after positive test for marijuana. Also suffers from depression.

* Away from the baize: deals in property, owns London lingerie store, plays golf and supports Arsenal, despite playing for Spurs as schoolboy. Aiming for new career playing pool in USA.

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