Ronnie O’Sullivan has saluted the sports psychiatrist he turned to at a time of need after rediscovering his passion for snooker and his best form.
Barely two weeks since telling organisers of the Betfred.com World Championship they should prepare for a tournament without him, after a dismal run of results and amid difficulties in his private life, O’Sullivan is not only in Sheffield but in his element too.
His second-round match against Shaun Murphy had been billed a grudge contest, but when O’Sullivan opened up a 6-2 lead this afternoon it was threatening to become a no-contest.
That may well change tomorrow, when they resume for a second of three sessions, however O’Sullivan was well on top and is obviously back in love with the sport.
He has only recently begun work with Dr Steve Peters, who has previously operated to successful effect with Britain’s Olympic cycling team, but the initial results seem impressive.
Heading into the match, 35-year-old O’Sullivan wrote on Twitter: “It’s been a tough year for various reasons but hope to have turned a corner.
“I used to run to escape my demons. It was something positive. It kept me out of trouble. Hahah. Gonna try and put snooker first now though.
“I would recommend it though.. It’s good for the mind... Not sure I need it as much now though..
“Change of heart has been helped by Dr Steve Peters. Amazing man. It’s early days but I’m enjoying the game much more.
“The key is to enjoy. As long as I enjoy playing I will continue to play. If not then I can’t carry on . It was killing me :(”
There was not a great deal to enjoy about the opening four frames of the tussle with Murphy, as the pair began, after a handshake, as though the enormity of the occasion was smothering them.
It hardly helped that the air-conditioning system in the arena had broken down, making for a humid atmosphere.
But gradually O’Sullivan began to impress, and he had breaks of 76, 75 and 86 in the final three frames of the session to open his four-frame lead.
Murphy had branded O’Sullivan’s behaviour as “pathetic”, “disrespectful” and “unprofessional” last September, when he had to be coaxed by referee Jan Verhaas to pot the final black to complete a 147 at the World Open in Glasgow.
The pair are very different characters, with Murphy never short of an opinion. One which he holds is that there is a distortion in the ratio of the attention O’Sullivan commands and what he brings to the sport compared with other players.
Clearly, though, O’Sullivan could be grabbing many more plaudits over the next week and a half, as he looks in the mood and in the shape to land what would be his fourth world title.
A player hoping to be crowned for a second time at the Crucible is Scotland’s Graeme Dott, always a threat in Sheffield and now a quarter-finalist this year.
Dott, 32, set up a showdown with snooker’s new golden boy Judd Trump by overcoming Ali Carter 13-11.
Theirs was a match which ran to a theme of Carter setting up frame-winning positions and allowing Dott to steal in at the end to deny him.
Devastated Carter said he was “absolutely robbed” of frames he should have won, and Dott acknowledged: “I stole so many.”
The 2006 champion is wary of 21-year-old adversary Trump, who won the China Open at the start of the month and then knocked out defending champion Neil Robertson on the opening day of the World Championship.
Today saw Trump finish off a 13-6 mauling of Martin Gould, and Dott knows he poses a threat, particularly since he has never known any agony at the Crucible.
“You can tell he’s just free-rolling here,” Dott said.
“He’s got no battle scars, that’s why he’s enjoying it.
“I can remember being here and enjoying it, but give him another five or six years.
“He’s a phenomenal talent and he goes for everything, pots everything, and I’ll certainly need to play really well to beat him.”
Dott laughed off suggestions the match would offer a clash of styles, saying: “We’ll have a good go at who’s going to have the quickest shot time.
“I don’t think I’m a million miles behind. A lot of you guys think I’m a Cliff Thorburn.”
Trump continues to believe he can carry off the title.
“I’m definitely super-confident. I feel like I’ve got the game to go out and win it,” Trump said.
“I’m on such a high, I’ve got used to winning whereas I was used to losing before.
“I have to bring myself back to reality sometimes.
“I’ve only won two games, so it’s nothing that special.
“I’ve still got a long way to go.”