Snooker: Exhausted O'Sullivan eyes Dublin

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RONNIE O'SULLIVAN, who failed to defend his UK Championship title in Bournemouth because of physical and mental exhaustion, has withdrawn from next month's German Masters.

The Essex player, 23 next Saturday, hopes to make a comeback in the Irish Open starting on 15 December. O'Sullivan was due to play Steve Davis or Alan McManus in his first match of the invitation tournament in Bingen.

On rankings the replacement spot should go to world No 11 Anthony Hamilton, but Matthew Stevens might be in line after his fine performance in the UK Championship, when he finished runner-up to John Higgins.

Higgins starts as the favourite for the Malta Grand Prix, an eight- man invitation event featuring Stephen Hendry, the 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, Jimmy White, the Masters champion Mark Williams plus three local players including Tony Drago, later this week.

In becoming the UK champion for the first time on Sunday, when he claimed the pounds 75,000 first prize to take his earnings past the pounds 1.5m mark with a 10-6 victory over Stevens, Higgins is only the third player after Steve Davis and Hendry to hold World and UK titles plus the world No 1 spot in the same year.