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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Davidson performs his comedy show at Edinburgh Festival 2014
TV
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Planner

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen withi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Recruitment Genius: Existing Customer Telephone Consultants

£13000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Every day they get another 1000...

Recruitment Genius: Contract Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor