Ronnie O’Sullivan has again voiced his disaffection with snooker, claiming he is just “using” the game and has not yet committed to entering next month’s World Championship.
The 39-year-old, who has won the UK Championship, the Masters and the Crucible title five times each, has struggled for much of his career with the mental aspect of the game and the demands of the tour circuit.
His achievements in recent years are outstanding, winning the 2013 World Championship having barely played all season and the 2014 UK Championship despite suffering with a fractured ankle.
But as this year’s Crucible build-up begins, his commitment is once more in question.
“Snooker is no longer what it once was for me. I just use snooker, rather than letting it use me,” he told the Guardian.
“I know it sounds crazy but I wasn’t even sure if I was going to enter the worlds. I probably will but it’s got to the point where I want to give snooker only 20 per cent of my time.
“It’s not something I’m that bothered about. It’s probably one of my least favourite tournaments. Seventeen days is too long.
“But as a kid, I dreamed of being world champion. (Then) I thought if I can win three or four, that would be great. Three? You’re getting to be a great player. Four? You’re on a level with John Higgins, who is a master of the game. So I’m really happy to have won it five times.”
It is a familiar refrain from O’Sullivan.
He threatened not to take up his place in the 2014 Masters, polling his Twitter followers for advice only to announce his entry around an hour later.
The switch in the world rankings format, from points to a money list, played into O’Sullivan’s hands by allowing him to “play the system” – as he put it in 2013 – by focusing on the more lucrative tournaments.
But he remains unhappy and even said he cannot achieve financial security through snooker’s “s***” prize money – an extraordinary claim even for O’Sullivan, especially as he has already noted: “I could get by the rest of my life if I never worked again.”
He said: “If you go back five or 10 years I used to get good sponsorship for my logos. I was on £350,000 even before I hit a ball. Now there is no money in snooker. The top players are suffering now.
“I don’t want it to come across as if I’m doing this for money. I just want what’s fair. They can say ’you’re getting this amount of prize money’. But if you’re a top player it’s f****** s***. I want my security, and snooker isn’t going to give me that security.”