Ronnie O'Sullivan

Ronald Antonio O'Sullivan OBE (born 5 December 1975) is an English professional snooker player from Essex. Since turning professional in 1992, he has won five World Championships, a record seven Masters titles, and a record seven UK Championships. He holds the record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments. He shares the record for the most ranking titles (36) with Stephen Hendry and also holds the record as the youngest winner of a ranking title (1993 UK Championship, aged 17 years and 358 days) as well as the youngest winner of the The Masters (in 1995, aged 19 years and 69 days). He has held the world number one ranking on multiple occasions in March 2019 he returned to the world number one ranking for the first time since May 2010 this is the longest gap in the history of the sport. He has earned career prize money of over £11 million, the highest amount by any player in snooker history.

A prolific break-builder, O'Sullivan is the only player to have reached 1,000 career century breaks. He has also achieved the highest number of officially recognized maximum breaks in professional competition (15), and the fastest competitive maximum break, compiled in a time of 5 minutes and 8 seconds at the 1997 World Championship.

O'Sullivan has often been a controversial figure in the sport. Noted for his unpredictable temperament and outspoken views, he has received many warnings and sanctions from the sport's governing body over his conduct and comments, and has repeatedly declared his intention to retire. Outside his playing career, he has worked as a pundit for Eurosport's snooker coverage, has written crime novels and autobiographies, and has starred in the miniseries Ronnie O'Sullivan's American Hustle. He was awarded an OBE in the 2016 New Year Honours.

Career summary

O'Sullivan began playing snooker at age 7 and soon became a noted amateur competitor, winning his first club tournament at age 9, making his first competitive century break at age 10, and winning the British Under-16 Championship at age 13. At the 1991 English Amateur Championship, at the age of 15 years and 98 days, he made his first competitive maximum break, then the youngest player ever to do so in a recognised tournament. In the same year, he won the IBSF World Under-21 Snooker Championship and Junior Pot Black.

After turning professional in 1992 at the age of 16, he won 74 of his first 76 qualifying matches, including a record 38 consecutive professional victories. He qualified for the televised stages of the World Championship in his first professional season, making his Crucible debut on 18 April 1993, aged 17 years and 134 days. He remains the third youngest player ever to compete at the venue, behind Luca Brecel and Stephen Hendry. He claimed his first ranking title later that year, winning the 1993 UK Championship seven days before his 18th birthday to become the youngest ever winner of a ranking tournament, a record he still holds. The following season, he won the 1995 Masters aged 19 years and 69 days. He remains the youngest ever Masters champion.

Between 1996 and 1999, O'Sullivan reached three world semifinals in four years. At the 1997 World Championship, he achieved his first maximum break in professional competition; compiled in a time of 5 minutes and 8 seconds, it remains the fastest competitive maximum break in snooker history. He won his second UK Championship later that year. Despite these successes, his career became increasingly marred by controversy in the later 1990s. During the 1996 World Championship, he assaulted assistant press officer Michael Ganley, for which the WPBSA gave him a suspended two-year ban and a £20,000 fine. After winning the 1998 Irish Masters, he was stripped of his title and prize money when a post-match drug test found evidence of cannabis in his system.

He reached his first world final in 2001, where he defeated John Higgins 18–14 to claim his first world title and reach number two in the world rankings. He won his third UK title later in 2001, which helped him attain the world number one ranking for the first time in the 2002/2003 season. With veteran world champion Ray Reardon acting as his coach and mentor, he won his second world title in 2004, defeating Graeme Dott 18–8 in the final, after which he held the number one ranking for the next two seasons. He added his second Masters title in 2005, ten years after his first. However, his behaviour became notably erratic in the mid-2000s as he battled clinical depression. During the 2005 World Championship, he shaved his head mid-tournament and exhibited what The Independent called a "public emotional disintegration" while losing 11 of the last 14 frames in his quarterfinal against Peter Ebdon. At the 2005 UK Championship, he sat with a wet towel draped over his head during his match against Mark King. Trailing Hendry 1–4 in their best-of-17-frames quarterfinal at the 2006 UK Championship, he abruptly conceded the match during the sixth frame and left the arena. Hendry was awarded the match 9–1 and the WPBSA fined O'Sullivan £20,800 over the incident.

In 2007, O'Sullivan won his third Masters title and his fourth UK Championship, his first ranking title in almost three years. He won his third world title in 2008, defeating Ali Carter 18–8 in the final, after which he held the world number one ranking for the next two seasons. He added his fourth Masters title in 2009. After two disappointing seasons that saw him fall out of the top ten in the world rankings, he began working with sports psychologist Steve Peters in 2011. A resurgent O'Sullivan captured his fourth World Championship in 2012, again defeating Carter in the final, after which he paid tribute to Peters's work with him. The following season, he took an extended break from the professional tour. Despite having played only one competitive match all season, he returned to the Crucible for the 2013 World Snooker Championship and successfully defended his world title, defeating Barry Hawkins 18–12 in the final. In 2014, he won his fifth Masters title, beating defending champion Mark Selby 10–4 in the final, and went on to reach a third consecutive World Championship final, where he again faced Selby. Despite taking a 10–5 lead, he lost 14–18, his first ever defeat in a world final. Later that year he won his fifth UK Championship, beating Judd Trump 10–9 in the final, although he declined to defend his UK title the following year, citing debilitating insomnia.

He won consecutive Masters in 2016 and 2017 for a record seven Masters titles. He won consecutive UK Championships in 2017 and 2018 for a record seven UK titles and a new overall record of 19 Triple Crown titles, surpassing Hendry's total of 18. During the 2017/2018 season he won five ranking events. In the last frame of the 2019 Players Championship final, he made his 1,000th century break in professional competition, becoming the first player to reach that milestone. At the 2019 Tour Championship he won his 36th ranking title, equalling Hendry's record and giving him the world number one ranking for the first time since May 2010. His other career highlights include four Welsh Open titles, four Shanghai Masters titles, three Champion of Champions titles, two China Open titles, and a record 15 maximum breaks in professional competition.

Criticisms of the sport

During the 2010s, O'Sullivan became a vocal critic of World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn. In interviews and on social media, he voiced his unhappiness with many of Hearn's decisions affecting how the professional tour is run. He took issue with increased travel expectations, flat 128 draws that required top professionals to play more rounds against lower ranked opponents, reduced prize money for 147 breaks, and what he saw as inadequate tournament venues. He accused snooker's governing body of bullying and intimidating him, stated that Hearn was running a "dictatorship," and threatened in 2018 to form a breakaway snooker tour akin to the split in darts. Hearn responded by criticising some of O'Sullivan's remarks as immature and characterising his breakaway threat as damaging to the sport.

Playing style

O'Sullivan plays in a fast and attacking manner. He is a prolific breakbuilder and solid tactical player. He has stated his disdain for long, drawn-out games, saying that it harms the game of snooker. He is regarded by many other professionals as an excellent front-runner. In previous years, he could become demoralized by being behind and not playing well, and was liable to lose several consecutive frames. He is right-handed but can play to a very high standard with his left hand and routinely alternates where needed. While not quite possessing the same power in his left arm, being ambidextrous enables him to attempt shots with his left hand that would otherwise require awkward cueing with a rest or spider.

When he first displayed this left-handed ability in the 1996 World Championship against Alain Robidoux, the Canadian accused him of disrespect and refused to shake hands after the match. He was summoned to a disciplinary hearing in response to Robidoux's formal complaint, where he had to prove that he could play to a high level with his left hand. He played three frames of snooker against former world championship semi-finalist Rex Williams, winning all three. The charge of bringing the game into disrepute was subsequently dropped.

Status

He is considered by many to be the most naturally talented player in the history of the sport, with some labelling him a "genius". Several of his peers regard him as the greatest player ever. However, a temperamental streak sometimes leads to O'Sullivan having a lack of confidence or interest, and he has performed inconsistently throughout his controversial career thus far, with observers noting the "two Ronnies" aspect of his character. According to Stephen Hendry after his defeat at the time of the 2008 World Championship, "O'Sullivan is the best player in the world by a country mile". O'Sullivan has compiled the highest number of competitive century breaks in the sport's history, surpassing Hendry's previous record of 775. O'Sullivan targeted reaching 1,000 century breaks before he retires, a feat he achieved in the winning frame of the 2019 Players Championship final.

O'Sullivan is one of the most popular players on the circuit, noted for being a "showman", and has helped improve the image of snooker to the general public. O'Sullivan himself has stated his desire for entertaining the watching public, and has said that slow, gritty games put viewers off. He has often been compared to Alex Higgins and Jimmy White, because of both his natural talent and popularity. O'Sullivan has three verified social network accounts, on Twitter, Sina Weibo, and Instagram, with over 300,000, over 160,000 and over 145,000 followers respectively. He updates his Weibo account with the help of two assistants who understand Chinese.

Other endeavours

Broadcaster

O'Sullivan started broadcasting regularly on Brentwood radio station Phoenix FM in May 2015, co-hosting the Midweek Matchzone show with Chris Hood. O'Sullivan has previously broadcast a number of hour-long specials for the station.

In March 2014, Eurosport announced that it had signed an exclusive deal with O'Sullivan to make him its global ambassador for snooker, with the goal of driving the sport's international appeal. As part of the deal, O'Sullivan creates an exclusive snooker series for the network called The Ronnie O'Sullivan Show, which includes his insights into the game, interviews with other professional players, and playing tips. He also wrote for Yahoo! websites and mobile apps during the World Championship. O'Sullivan works for Eurosport with Jimmy White and Neal Foulds doing analysis for events that he does not take part in or if he is knocked out of an event he joins the team for the later rounds. O'Sullivan also starred in a mini-series Ronnie O'Sullivan's American Hustle touring the United States with broadcasting friend Matt Smith. The series showed the pair travelling to different cities in the US learning the art of pool hustling.

Author

O'Sullivan has written three crime novels in collaboration with author Emlyn Rees: Framed (2016), Double Kiss (2017), and The Break (2018). Although the novels are not autobiographical, they are loosely based on his early experiences and family life. He has also written two autobiographies: his first, The Autobiography of Ronnie O'Sullivan, was published in 2003; and his second, Running: The Autobiography, was published in 2013.

In March 2018, O'Sullivan announced that he was writing a new health and fitness book with nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. Published in early 2019, Top of Your Game: Eating for Mind and Body contains healthy recipes and advice for "living better, eating healthier and feeding your brain to enhance your performance".

Video games

O'Sullivan has been involved with several video games, including his own, released for PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita on October 3, 2012 named Ronnie O'Sullivan's Snooker. He also worked on World Snooker Championship 2007 in 2007, and Virtual Snooker in 1996.

Personal life

Born in Wordsley in the West Midlands, O'Sullivan grew up, and still lives, in the Manor Road area of Chigwell, Essex. His parents Ronald John O'Sullivan and Maria O'Sullivan (née Catalano) ran a string of sex shops in Soho. O'Sullivan's father was jailed in 1992 for murder after stabbing father-of-two Bruce Bryan, and released 18 years later. His mother was also sentenced to a year in prison for tax evasion in 1996, leaving O'Sullivan to care for his then 8-year-old sister Danielle.

He is a first cousin of snooker player Maria Catalano, who has been ranked number one in the women's game.

O'Sullivan has three children: Taylor-Ann Magnus (born 1996) from a two-year relationship with Sally Magnus; and Lily (born 2006) and Ronnie (born 2007) from a relationship with Jo Langley, whom he met at Narcotics Anonymous. He became a grandfather in October 2018 after Taylor-Ann gave birth to her first child. He has been engaged to actress and former Strictly Come Dancing contestant Laila Rouass since 2013.

He has been labelled a perfectionist, and highly self-critical even in victory. He has suffered from clinical depression, and had drugs and alcohol–related problems in his early career. In 2011, he started working with the renowned sports psychologist Steve Peters, who has helped him overcome his mood swings. Noted for repeatedly declaring his intention to leave the sport, he took an extended break from snooker during the 2012-13 season and spent time working on a pig farm.

In 2003, media sources carried reports that O'Sullivan had converted to Islam, but despite his self-professed interest in the faith, these reports were proved to be false. O'Sullivan also espouses an interest in Buddhism, having spent many lunchtimes at the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green. However, he denies having a firm commitment to any religion.

O'Sullivan is a keen football fan and a supporter of Arsenal. He enjoys motor racing and has appeared on Top Gear. He is a keen runner, with a personal best of 34 minutes 54 seconds for 10 km races, which ranked him in the top 1500 of 10k runners in the United Kingdom in 2008. He enjoys cooking, and appeared on BBC's Saturday Kitchen in December 2014.

O'Sullivan was named OBE in the New Year Honours list in 2016.

O'Sullivan joined the Labour Party, and became the first celebrity to endorse Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 general election.

O'Sullivan is a close friend of Steve Peters, who has been influential on his career. He is also a close friend of British artist Damien Hirst.

Performance and rankings timeline

Career finals

Ranking finals: 52 (36 titles, 16 runners-up)

Minor-ranking finals: 6 (3 titles, 3 runners-up)

Non-ranking finals: 50 (33 titles, 17 runners-up)

Variant finals: 3 (1 title, 2 runners-up)

Pro–am finals: 1 (1 title)

Team finals: 2 (2 titles)

Amateur finals: 5 (3 titles, 2 runner-up)

Maximum and century breaks

Ronnie O'Sullivan has completed 15 maximum breaks from his first in the 1997 World Snooker Championship against Mick Price; to his 2018 English Open maximum against Allan Taylor.

Achieved in 5 minutes and 8 seconds, O'Sullivan's maximum in 1997 also holds the record for the fastest maximum in competitive play. Initially Guinness World Records recorded the time at 5 minutes and 20 seconds, but recent evidence suggests this is incorrect as a result of the BBC starting the timer too early on the break. Depending on the timing methodology used, the break took between 5 minutes 8 seconds, and 5 minutes 15 seconds, with both World Snooker and Guinness World Records now officially acknowledging the shorter time.

O'Sullivan has refused to complete maximum breaks due to opinions on the maximum break prizes. In the 2016 Welsh Open, O'Sullivan intentionally played a pink ball and recorded a 146 break. It was suggested that O'Sullivan did this out of protest due to the maximum break prize being only £10,000, but he claimed it wasn't about the money and just wanted to have a little fun. Six years earlier, at the 2010 World Open, referee Jan Verhaas convinced O'Sullivan to complete the break, in which O'Sullivan had turned down to pot the final black ball.

O'Sullivan also holds the record for the total amount of century breaks, compiling over 1,000 century breaks in competition in his 26-year professional career. He scored his 1,000th century in the winning frame of the 2019 Players Championship final against Neil Robertson in March 2019.

Prize money

O'Sullivan began the 2017/2018 season with £9.0 million (to the nearest £100,000) career total prize earnings.

Since then, O'Sullivan has won the following prize money amounts per season, leaving his career total at:

Last updated on: 24 February 2020.

Further reading

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ronnie O'Sullivan", released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.