A multi-millionaire and widely regarded as the most gifted snooker player of all time, O’Sullivan describes himself as “semi-retired” despite an insatiable appetite from fans for him to continue. Known for his unpredictable temperament and outspoken views, the Rocket has received many warnings and sanctions from snooker’s governing body for his actions over the years. Born in Wordsley in the West Midlands, O’Sullivan grew up in the Manor Road area of Chigwell, Essex – where he still lives.
But O’Sullivan’s childhood was far from a fairytale and he has been open about his mental health struggles and battle with addiction.
Snooker was Ronnie’s life until 14 years ago, when he fought back against his demons, but, despite holding the world number one ranking multiple times, the 44-year-old claims he wishes he never got into the sport.
He said: “I never really chose to play snooker, my dad did that for me, and I wish he hadn’t.
“When I was a kid, I just wanted to have a laugh, potting the odd ball, but I’d probably have been happier playing golf or football, or driving cars for a living – something outside, with an adrenalin buzz.
Ronnie O’Sulivan was candid over his relationship with the sport
O’Sullivan has always been open about his battles
“Dad was ambitious on my behalf. He sat me down when I was 10 and told me that if I wanted to play the sport I should try to be the best in the world, and if I wanted to do that, I needed to stop mucking around.
“He used to compare the snooker hall in Chigwell to a creche – it was somewhere he knew I’d be safe and stay put, rather than out on the streets causing trouble.
“He had spies there, too – older members would report back to him if I’d got the hump that day and snapped a cue, or wasted my pocket money on the fruit machines.”
O’Sullivan’s father was jailed in 1992 for murder and the potting maestro has always been open about how he lost his way during his youth.
He added: “By the time I was a teenager I was pretty well drilled, winning tournaments all over the place.
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The snooker ace said he wished he never got into the sport
“Apart from the past five years, that time between 11 and 15 was probably the best, most consistent snooker I’ve played.
“Everything went a bit wrong in the following two decades. If that 15 or 16-year-old could see what I’m like now, he’d probably think I’d done OK.”
But he also admitted during the 2016 interview with the Telegraph that it was not all about winning trophies for him.
He continued: “Throughout my life, I’ve never been bothered by the records or titles.
“I always want to be the best I can, but I basically play snooker in the same way I did as a kid – just trying to pull off good shots.
“It’s why I’ve dropped in and out of the game – trophies are fun for about five seconds. I prefer the art of it; some days it’s good, other days it’s not.
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O’Sullivan has won the World Championship five times
O’Sullivan takes on Ding on Friday
“I think teenage Ronnie would have some grudging respect for some of the breaks on my YouTube highlight reel, though it’s probably nothing he couldn’t have done.”
To safeguard a balanced lifestyle, O’Sullivan has trained his focus on a new addiction – running.
He now enjoys jogging in Hainault Forest and by the coast at Leigh on Sea, not feeling shackled to the table any longer, and religiously cooks for one hour a day.
He said during the same interview that he would not want his children to ever feel the same way he did.
He said: “My son, Ronnie, is quite similar to me. He’s happy in his own little world and just gets on with things.
“At one time he wanted to play snooker, but I talked him out of that one.
“It isn’t good for you as a person. That’s something I’ve got on the young me, I suppose.
“He wouldn’t know why, but I’d tell him never to pick up a snooker cue.
“Play something else – maybe tennis. I could be Andy Murray right now, and would have been happy the whole time. But I’m not, and I haven’t been.”
O’Sullivan has three children, two daughters and one son: Taylor-Ann Magnus, Lily and Ronnie.
O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui meet in the second round of this year’s World Championship tomorrow, the third time they will have played at the Crucible, with each man winning one of their previous encounters.
Ding left Sheffield victorious in the 2017 quarter-finals, but he has never gone on to lift the trophy, while the Rocket has claimed the big one five times.