Snooker: World-weary O'Sullivan frames familiar lament

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RONNIE O'SULLIVAN was in sombre mood last night despite a heartening first round result at the Embassy World Championship here in Sheffield, a 10-3 victory over Leo Fernandez.

"The only thing I want to do is play snooker," the world No 3 said. "However, I'm not going to do it forever. I want to start enjoying my life and if things don't happen in a year or two then I'll have to look to do other things.

"I was only 19 when I first started feeling this way and I don't feel any different now. I have been searching and searching for a long time now but the buzz isn't there any more."

O'Sullivan, 23, has moved out of his old practice club for a new environment at Witham, in Essex. He also hopes to move closer to the facilities instead of a daily 50-mile round trip from his home in Chigwell.

"I'm going to give it a real good go next season and see what happens," added O'Sullivan, who became the youngest ranking tournament winner when he took the UK crown aged 17. "But now my form is not the best. I struggled throughout the match and didn't get anything doing."

It is difficult to know whether O'Sullivan is bluffing or he really is in a trough of despair. Fernandez, who is based in London, arrived with high hopes of taking a famous scalp but O'Sullivan was in a different league. He took the first session 7-2, lost the opening frame of last night's session to a break of 80 but then reeled off the three required for victory. His break of 68 remained his highest of the match to suggest that all is not totally well with his game.

His next opponent is the world No 74, Joe Perry, the man who eliminated the six-times champion, Steve Davis, in the first round on Wednesday. On paper it should be another easy win for O'Sullivan though Perry probably feels anything is possible after beating Davis.

John Higgins produced the finest session of snooker seen so far at this year's world championship when he destroyed Mark King.

The 23-year-old title holder already has one foot in the quarter-finals before today's session as he holds an 8-0 advantage. It could be that the in-form world No 1 can win with a session to spare. He requires only five frames in today's penultimate session to earn a morning off tomorrow.

Higgins needed only 96 minutes to submerge the world No 16 from Romford. He began with a break of 75, finished with a run of 77 and in between made further contributions of 104, 108, 51, 48, 62 and 84.

No player has ever been whitewashed in a best of 25 frames second round match her but after Higgins' start that might now be possible. It was a horrible case of deja vu for King. At the 1997 Grand Prix in Bournemouth, Higgins beat him 5-0 and King accumulated a televised record low points tally of 11.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield) Order of play (All second round matches): 10am K Doherty (Irl) v N Bond (Eng); J Parrott (Eng) v C Small (Sco) match resumes at 4-4. 2.30pm J Higgins (Sco) v M King (Eng) match resumes Higgins 8-0 up; 7pm T Drago (Malta) v M Stevens (Wales); Doherty v Bond - eight more frames; Parrot v Small - to a conclusion.