Ronnie O'Sullivan

Ronald Antonio O'Sullivan OBE (born 5 December 1975) is an English professional snooker player from Chigwell, Essex. As a six-time (and reigning) world champion, a record seven-time Masters champion, and a record seven-time UK champion, he is the most successful player in the history of snooker's Triple Crown Series, with 20 titles. He also holds the record for the most ranking titles in professional snooker, with 37, and has won career prize money of over £11.8 million, the most by any player in snooker history.

A snooker prodigy from an early age, O'Sullivan made his first competitive century break at age 10, won the British Under-16 Championship at age 13, achieved his first competitive maximum break at age 15, and won the IBSF World Under-21 Snooker Championship before turning professional in 1992, aged 16. He won his first ranking title at the 1993 UK Championship aged 17 years and 358 days, making him the youngest player ever to win a professional ranking event, a record he still holds. He is also the youngest player ever to win the Masters, which he first achieved in 1995, aged 19 years and 69 days.

O'Sullivan is now also noted for his longevity in the sport, having competed in a record 28 consecutive World Championships between 1993 and 2020. Winning the 2020 World Championship aged 44 years and 254 days made him the second-oldest player (after Ray Reardon) to win a world title in snooker's modern era. A prolific break-builder, he is the only player to have achieved 1,000 career century breaks, a milestone he reached in the 2019 Players Championship final. He has also achieved the highest number of officially recognized maximum breaks in professional competition, with 15, and the fastest competitive maximum break, compiled in a time of 5 minutes and 8 seconds at the 1997 World Championship.

Known for his unpredictable temperament and outspoken views, O'Sullivan has often been at the centre of controversy in the sport. He has received many warnings and sanctions from snooker's governing body over his conduct and comments, and has frequently threatened to retire. Outside his playing career, he has worked as a pundit for Eurosport, 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 with the trophy of the 2012 German Masters

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 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 is the youngest Masters champion in history.

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 title later that year at the 1997 UK Championship. Despite these successes, his career also became marred by controversy in the later 1990s. During the 1996 World Championship, he assaulted an assistant press officer, for which he received 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 six-time 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 Stephen 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 O'Sullivan was fined £20,800 over the incident.

In 2007, O'Sullivan won his third Masters title and his fourth 2007 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 seasons that saw him fall out of the top ten in the world rankings for the first time, he began working with psychiatrist 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 playing 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 his 2014 Masters quarterfinal against Ricky Walden, he set a new record for the most points without reply in professional competition, with 556, and went on to beat the defending champion Mark Selby 10–4 in the final to claim his fifth Masters title. At the 2014 World Championship, he reached a third consecutive world final, where he again faced Selby. Despite taking a 10–5 lead, O'Sullivan lost 14–18, his first defeat in a world final. Later in 2014, 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.

O'Sullivan after winning his fifth world title in 2013

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 total of 19 titles in the Triple Crown Series, surpassing Hendry's total of 18. During the 2017–18 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 attaining the world number one ranking for the first time since May 2010.

At the 2020 World Snooker Championship, O'Sullivan came from 14–16 behind in his semifinal against Selby to win 17–16; he then defeated Kyren Wilson 18–8 in the final to win his sixth world title, setting new records of 37 career ranking titles and 20 Triple Crown titles. Aged 44 years and 254 days, he became the oldest player to win a world title since Reardon in 1978. The tournament also marked his 28th consecutive Crucible appearance, surpassing the 27 consecutive appearances made by Hendry.

At the 2021 Players Championship, O'Sullivan reached his 57th ranking tournament final, equalling Hendry's record.

O'Sullivan's other career highlights include four Welsh Open titles, four Shanghai Masters titles, three Champion of Champions titles, and two China Open titles.

Playing style

O'Sullivan during the 2011 Paul Hunter Classic

Known for his fast and attacking style of play, O'Sullivan gained the nickname "The Rocket" after winning a best-of-nine frame match in a record 43 minutes during his debut season as a professional. A prolific breakbuilder and solid tactical player, he has stated his disdain for long, drawn-out games, saying that they harm the game of snooker. He is right-handed but can play to a high standard with his left hand and routinely alternates where needed, enabling him to attempt shots with his left hand that would otherwise require 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.

Status

O'Sullivan is highly regarded in the sport, with several of his peers regarding him as the greatest player ever and some labelling him a "genius". After losing 6–17 to O'Sullivan in the 2008 World Championship semifinals, Hendry described him as "the best player in the world by a country mile" at that point in time. However, O'Sullivan sometimes lacks confidence or interest, and he has performed inconsistently throughout his career, with observers noting the "two Ronnies" aspect of his character.

One of the most popular players on the circuit, he is noted for being a "showman", and has helped improve the image of snooker with the general public. He has often been compared to Alex Higgins and Jimmy White because of his natural talent and popularity.

In December 2020 O'Sullivan was nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.

Criticisms of the sport

After Barry Hearn took charge of World Snooker in 2010, O'Sullivan became a vocal critic of how Hearn reconfigured the professional tour. 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 tournament venues he saw as inadequate. He accused snooker's governing body of bullying and intimidating him, claimed that Hearn was running a "dictatorship," protested alleged mistreatment by snooker's authorities by giving robotic or monosyllabic responses in interviews, and refused opportunities to make maximum breaks in apparent protest over inadequate prize money for the achievement. In 2018, he threatened to form a breakaway snooker tour akin to the split in darts.

During the 2020 World Championship, O'Sullivan publicly criticised the standard of new players coming into snooker, stating that he would have to "lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50". He was also critical of the tournament organisers' decision to allow fans into the World Championship final during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other endeavours

Broadcaster

In 2015 and 2016, O'Sullivan co-hosted the Midweek Matchzone show with Chris Hood on Brentwood radio station Phoenix FM.

In March 2014, Eurosport 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 created an exclusive snooker series for the network called The Ronnie O'Sullivan Show, which included 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 frequently appears as a pundit on Eurosport's snooker coverage alongside Jimmy White and Neal Foulds. He also starred in a miniseries 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 at a 2014 book signing

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.

O'Sullivan has also coauthored a health and fitness book with nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert entitled Top of Your Game: Eating for Mind and Body. Published in 2019, it 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 Ronnie O'Sullivan's Snooker, World Snooker Championship 2007 in 2007, and Virtual Snooker in 1996.

Personal life

O'Sullivan was born on 5 December 1975 in Wordsley, West Midlands, the son of Ronald John and Maria (née Catalano) O'Sullivan, who ran a string of sex shops in the Soho area of London. He was brought up in the Manor Road area of Chigwell, Essex, where he still lives. He is a first cousin of snooker player Maria Catalano, who has been ranked number one in the women's game. In 1992, his father was sentenced to life in prison for murder and was released in 2010 after serving 18 years. His mother was sentenced to a year in prison for tax evasion in 1996, leaving O'Sullivan to care for his eight-year-old sister Danielle.

He 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 has been engaged to actress Laila Rouass since 2013. He became a grandfather in October 2018 after Taylor-Ann gave birth to her first child.

Known for his perfectionism and for being highly self-critical, even in victory, he has suffered from depression and struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism in his early career. Psychiatrist Steve Peters, a close friend, has been helping him overcome his mood swings since 2011. He is also a close friend of artist Damien Hirst. Noted for repeatedly declaring his intention to retire, O'Sullivan took an extended break from the professional snooker tour during the 2012–13 season, during which he worked on a pig farm for several weeks. He enjoys running, and has achieved a personal best of 34 minutes and 54 seconds for 10 km races, which ranked him in the top 1,500 10k runners in the UK in 2008. He enjoys cooking, and appeared on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen in December 2014 and February 2021. He also enjoys motor racing, and has appeared on Top Gear. He is a supporter of Arsenal FC.

Despite a self-professed interest in Islam, O'Sullivan denied media reports that claimed he had converted to the religion in 2003. He has also espoused 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. Politically, he supports the Labour Party and was the first celebrity to endorse Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 general election.

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

Performance and rankings timeline

Career finals

Ranking finals: 57 (37 titles, 20 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 runners-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 that the BBC started 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 also holds the record for the total number of century breaks, compiling over 1,000 century breaks in professional competition. He scored his 1,000th century in the winning frame of the 2019 Players Championship final.

Further reading

External links

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