World Snooker: Fighter Ronnie O'Sullivan keen for more

By Mark AshendenBBC Sport at The Crucible
O'Sullivan feels 'positive and comfortable'

Ronnie O'Sullivan says he can still add to his three world titles but will quit if he stops enjoying snooker again.

The 35-year-old was close to pulling out of the World Snooker Championship following a torrid season.

But working with a sports psychiatrist helped inspire a 10-2 first-round win over Welshman Dominic Dale on Tuesday.

"I've always loved the game and this was the last throw of the dice. I'm a fighter and I enjoyed that match. I can win more world titles," he said.

"If I can take that feeling. If I go back to how I was, it's all over."

Despite a slow start to his opening clash with 39-year-old Dale, O'Sullivan produced three centuries and a 96 to cruise into round two against the in-form Shaun Murphy.

Few fans or the media expected such a performance on Tuesday, with O'Sullivan arriving at the Crucible on the back of four successive first-round defeats and without a single match win in a major tournament since November.

The Chigwell superstar, who withdrew from the World Championship before changing his mind less than two weeks ahead of his meeting with Dale, missed out on two maximum 147s during his triumph over an opponent making his first appearance in Sheffield for seven years.

"I enjoyed that as much as any other match I've played here," said O'Sullivan, who has featured every year since his debut in 1993.

"It's a nice feeling. I've played here for nearly 20 years, won it three years [2001, 2004, 2008] and sometimes I've come off relieved the match has ended.

Scintillating O'Sullivan blasts past Dale

"Today, I was disappointed. I wanted more frames and I've never felt like that before. Even when I was leading Stephen Hendry 16-4 [in the 2004 semi-finals] I had doubts about getting over the line.

"My game has never felt good enough and that was never fulfilling. I always felt like I was falling over the line - it was desperation."

Despite collecting 22 major titles over a professional career since 1992, O'Sullivan has increasingly suffered from motivational problems and sought guidance from several coaches and sport psychologists.

The latest person he has turned to is Steve Peters, psychiatrist to Britain's hugely successful Olympic cyclists, along with many other sports stars, and it seems to have had an immediate impact.

"It was a positive thing to do because I want to carry on," O'Sullivan added. "It's nothing to do with getting better as a player but allowing me to be like 99% of the other players. I needed to do something.

"I didn't want to carry on suffering. I've always taken steps to address it. I've just tried to get the motivation so one day it might click. There's been a shift in the last week. It doesn't mean I will now win tournaments.

"It's important to want to be out there. I've got nothing to prove to anyone. If I can keep enjoying it then I can start winning tournaments. I have played since I was seven and I would like to play for as long as possible.

"I won't give up. Quitting was never about giving up - it was about me having had enough. If someone had told me at 17 that I would have felt like I have for 18 years then I would have done something else.

"I have kept battling and battling. When you love something so much it's not always winning. It's about just doing it."

Next up on Thursday for O'Sullivan is Murphy, who has had an impressive season and demolished Marcus Campbell in his first round match.

On facing the 2005 world champion, O'Sullivan said: "I never worry about anyone I play. There's not a person playing snooker I can't beat. I haven't seen a player coming through I'm scared of.

"Stephen Hendry in his prime and John Higgins for some periods - other than those two, there's not a player that makes me think 'don't miss'. I still feel at 35 I've yet to produce my best consistency.

"I've done it in spells and if I enjoy playing again then I can compete with these guys. I just want to feel like I'm out there giving it a go."

It was a largely frustrating encounter for Dale, world quarter-finalist 11 years ago, who had chances in the first session but was rarely given a chance on Tuesday as he watched his opponent swiftly secure the three frames needed for victory.

Having lost eight consecutive frames after levelling at 2-2, Dale said: "I'm disappointed how I played. I had a gameplan for a comeback but it put too much pressure on me.

"I couldn't pot a thing. I'm not frightened of any player but when Ronnie plays that well, he puts you under pressure. He seems very relaxed. It's a completely different Ronnie to what we've seen and he'll be a match for anybody"

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