Ronnie O'Sullivan calls news conference to reveal plans

 

Ronnie O'Sullivan will make a major announcement about his future at a news conference at midday on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old reigning world champion has played only one competitive match this season, having taken a sabbatical from snooker in November 2012.

He has until 28 February to decide if he will defend his world title.

"The game needs Ronnie. For him not to defend his world title would be unprecedented," said BBC Sport pundit and 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor.

"He's not just any player, he's the most naturally gifted player we have ever had in the game.

"I'm hoping that he does play in the World Championship. It's going to be difficult for him.

Ronnie O'Sullivan

The highs and lows of 'Rocket' Ronnie O'Sullivan's career

"He hasn't played much in a year, he's practised, but even if you have put a lot of practise in, to go out into a main arena and perform the way he did previously is going to be difficult.

"But you never know with Ronnie, he can change his mind overnight."

Organisers of the news conference said O'Sullivan, 37, will "make a statement regarding his future career plans".

The four-time champion, who has battled depression in recent years, said he would miss the rest of the season because of "personal issues".

But he attended the Masters as a spectator in January, and World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said at the time that O'Sullivan could still enter the World Championship.

"He has until 28 February. He knows the date and it's up to him," said Hearn.

"He's got a lot of issues he's trying to clear up. He knows the sport doesn't revolve around one person, but he knows we love him and we miss him.

"He's probably thought about coming back for the World Championship but you can't ever say what Ronnie is really thinking. He does tend to change his mind every 24 hours."

O'Sullivan was ranked ninth at the end of last season, and although he has provisionally dropped to 24th after missing several tournaments, as defending champion he would qualify for the World Championship and be the top seed.

The Sun newspaper reported last month that he has been working as a volunteer farm labourer  in Essex.

"I've been cleaning out stables and pig sties, taking down fences, putting rubbish into barrels and clearing mud," he told the paper.

"It has been mainly manual work, also getting big bales of hay in to feed the animals. I was getting so bored I had to do something, and needed a goal to get out of bed in the morning.

O'Sullivan's World Championship wins

  • 2001: 18-14 v John Higgins
  • 2004: 18-8 v Graeme Dott
  • 2008: 18-8 v Ali Carter
  • 2012: 18-11 v Ali Carter

"There are personal things I need to sort out before I can even think of a return. I have until February to make that decision about the Crucible, anyway, but I am still playing every couple of weeks at my mum's house."

O'Sullivan was the final player to sign up for this season, having been hesitant because of differences of opinion with World Snooker over the demands on players.

His management cited personal problems as his reason for taking a break, and he has been eager to strike the right balance between a career and family life, which is complicated by the increasing amount of travel on the expanding snooker tour, and the ranking points system which rewards playing regularly.

O'Sullivan also suffered badly with glandular fever last year, but put that behind him at the World Championship to land his fourth title, beating Ali Carter in the final.

Ken Doherty, the 1997 world champion, wrote on Twitter that he would welcome the return of O'Sullivan, widely considered the most naturally talented player in the sport, and by some margin its biggest star at the box office.

Doherty tweeted:  "Looks like he's coming back?? He must miss it, the buzz, the atmosphere, excitement???

"Game will always survive, it is and always has been bigger than any one person, love to see him come back though."

O'Sullivan has played exhibition events in recent months, so would not be coming back entirely cold.

But his friend Jimmy White, insisted on Thursday that he was not aware of any plans O'Sullivan had to return to action.

White wrote on Twitter:  "Last time I spoke to Ronnie he wasn't going to play. I'd love him too but he has big plans away from snooker."