Snooker: Bad breaks mount up for a troubled soul

Fragile mental health is behind latest unsettling incident, writes James Corrigan

Ronnie O'Sullivan has threatened to turn his back on snooker a number of times and last night the game was wondering whether their great maverick had finally matched his words with action. The 31-year-old's decision to quit his UK Championship quarter-final against Stephen Hendry in the middle of the match certainly suggested he has had enough.

O'Sullivan was true to his nickname as he left York like a rocket after a bizarre concession when 4-1 down in the first-to-nine clash, although a statement later claimed it will be Ronnie as normal again, any time now. "I am a fighter," it read, "and I will be back on my feet fighting stronger and harder than ever very soon."

It did not go as far, however, to say when and where he will return and a few influential voices are even prepared to ponder aloud if rushing back is such a good idea ­ for O'Sullivan or for snooker. "If Ronnie is genuinely not enjoying the game," said John Parrott, the former world champion, "and if it is making him that unhappy then perhaps it's best he walks away. His health is the most important thing." O'Sullivan's health ­ to be frank his mental health ­ has long been an area of worry. With a father in jail, a mother who has been in jail, and with the drug problems and fights that have characterised his battle with depression, O'Sullivan has been a man in need. And he still is.

Ironically, stark evidence that his illness still rages was provided at this same tournament a year ago. Then, O'Sullivan sat for the duration of his second-round defeat against Mark King with a towel over his head. It was irrational, but pure O'Sullivan, attracting headlines of mirth, before those of concern.

It had been a similar story in 1996 when he played left-handed ­ and won ­ against Alain Robidoux in the World Championships. The young Englishman was summoned to a disciplinary hearing where he was asked to prove he could play to a professional standard left-handed. Three winning frames later, against Rex Williams, and the charge of bringing the game into disrepute was dropped. And so the cracks had merely been masked by his own undoubted genius.

Inevitably, they would resurface again, a couple of days later in fact, when he was found guilty of assaulting an official. O'Sullivan was given a two-year suspended ban, a £20,000 fine and advised to donate £10,000 to charity and not misbehave again. The warning had limited effect. In 1998, he was stripped of the Irish Open title after testing positive for marijuana. With trademark honesty he said: "My life is in a mess."

The feuds with fellow players did not help. Before his 2002 World Championship semi-final against yesterday's opponent, Hendry, O'Sullivan announced that he intended to send the seven-time world champion "back to his sad little life". Next he picked on Mark Williams, the then world No 1, declaring that few on the circuit liked the Welshman. " Stupid people say stupid things," said Williams, although in private he urged the authorities to take action and assist O'Sullivan.

In fairness to O'Sullivan, he has sought treatment, including anti-depressants and visits to the Priory. O'Sullivan has also ventured into the unconventional for answers. A couple of years ago, for instance, he became interested in Buddhism.

"Some feller came up to me, a dentist I think he'd been, and said, 'Read this book and tell me what you think'," recalled O'Sullivan. "The book was called The Power of Now. What was the book's message? Stop thinking and stop being mad. I've tried everything. I've tried religion, Prozac. They've never done it for me." But before yesterday, O'Sullivan had never given up. Starting all over again may not prove so easy.

Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
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

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Urgently seeking a Dynam...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Business Analyst, Retail Bank, £375-400p/d

£375 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Embedded Software Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + V. Competitive : Progressive Recruitment: Embedded...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game