Ronnie O'Sullivan (born December 5, 1975) is a professional snooker player. His fast play has earned him the official nickname The Rocket, with unofficial monikers including The Essex Exocet and The Magician. He is considered by many of his peers and snooker fans as the most naturally-talented player in the history of the sport whose highest level of play is arguably unmatched in the history of the game of snooker.
O'Sullivan started his career at an early age. He first achieved a century at the age of 10, scored a 147 maximum break when just 15, and turned professional at 16. He was the youngest ever winner of a ranking tournament when he won the 1993 UK Championship aged 17. In total, he has achieved a 147 break in professional competition 6 times during his career.
As a naturally-talented but temperamental player, O'Sullivan comes from the same mould as Alex Higgins and Jimmy White.
O'Sullivan's personal life has been well-documented. His father, Ronnie Sr, is serving a life sentence for murder, having been convicted of murdering the black bodyguard of Charlie Kray, brother of the Kray twins, when O'Sullivan was a teenager. This led to a harsher sentence as it was believed there was a racial element to the killing. The family have always denied both this and O'Sullivan's supposed guilt. Considered a perfectionist, O'Sullivan is publicly highly self-critical—even in victory. He has suffered from depression and various addictions.
His career has thus not been without difficulties. After winning the 1998 Benson & Hedges Irish Masters, he was stripped of his title after a drugs test found marijuana in his system. He also has an uneasy relationship with the press, with some of his comments considered ungracious. In 2004, O'Sullivan's father called 1970s master player and six times World Champion Ray Reardon and asked that he give O'Sullivan some advice. With Reardon's backing, O'Sullivan came into top form and claimed the 2004 World Snooker Championship, famously humiliating Stephen Hendry 17-4 in the semi-final with a virtuoso display.
O'Sullivan is unique amongst the current ranks of top snooker professionals in that he can play with the cue in either his right or left hand—frequently alternating between the two within the same frame. Whilst he lacks power in his left arm, the ambidextrous angle to his game has proved to be a boon, allowing him to more naturally take on shots which would otherwise require awkward cueing with rest or spider.
When he first displayed this gift in the World Championships against Alain Robidoux, the Canadian accused him of disrespect. O'Sullivan responded that he played better with his left hand than Robidoux could with his right. He has subsequently commented several times that switching to his left hand helps him retain his focus and provides him with extra motivation, both of which have often been found wanting in his prodigious game.
He holds the record for the fastest recorded maximum break, made whilst playing Mick Price in the World Snooker Championship on 21 April 1997; he completed the clearance in 5 minutes and 20 seconds — an average of one shot every 9 seconds. In fact, his six maximum breaks include the five fastest on record.
O'Sullivan's home club is the Grove Snooker Centre, situated in Romford, East London.
After failing to defend his 2004 World Championship title—losing in his quarter-final, after being 8-2 up, to an exceptionally determined and dogged performance by Peter Ebdon — with many observers accusing Ebdon of deliberate slow play to disrupt O'Sullivan's fast game, he indicated to the press that he was unlikely to compete in the following season, and perhaps even retire from the sport altogether. However in September 2005 he announced that he would play a truncated 2005/6 season, and spend some time playing eight ball pool in the USA after being chosen to compete on the elite International Pool Tour.
It transpired however that the IPT pool tournament in which O'Sullivan was to make his debut clashed with the defence of his Premier League Snooker title. Plans were changed accordingly, with the Essex man going on to thrash old rival Stephen Hendry (in possibly his worst-ever performance) 6-0 with four century breaks. He went on to compete in the Grand Prix, losing the final 9-2 to John Higgins, and all other ranking tournaments besides the Malta Open. He did not win a ranking match until the World Championship. He competed in the 2006 Masters Tournament, advancing to the final where he lost 10-9 to (again) John Higgins. He did compile the highest break of the tournament with 139.
The 2006 World Snooker Championhip saw O'Sullivan's personal sponsor, 888.com, also become the event sponsor for the following 5 years. O'Sullivan entered the event in the inevitable position of favourite. Following a 10-4 defeat of Dave Harold, the Englishman struggled through a surprising second round match against Wales' Ryan Day, with O'Sullivan seemingly progressing due to the Welshman's mistakes rather than his own successes.
A similar quarter-final match ensued against another Welshman and two-time Crucible winner, Mark Williams. O'Sullivan initially set a blistering pace, leading 10-6 going into the final session. A fightback from Williams saw him take the next 5 frames, but O'Sullivan held his nerve to take the match 13-11 and face Graeme Dott in the semi-finals.
In his post-match interview, the Essex man showed remarkable lack of confidence, and this would show in his next and final match of the tournament. Dott took an early lead before O'Sullivan drew level, going 8-8 at the end of the second session. Cue tip problems which had dogged the Englishman throughout the event recurred, including a controversial incident in which television footage appeared to show Ronnie deliberately removing the tip of his cue, securing a 15 minute break to re-tip, making a 124 break on his return. Tournament Director Mike Ganley accepted the player's assurance that the tip had simply fallen off, and no censure was made, drawing criticism from some fans and pundits. In an astonishing turn of events, Dott took all 8 frames of the third session, leaving him just one frame away from his second final in three years. The final session saw O'Sullivan stage a token fightback, taking three frames in a row before a mistake let Dott back in for an eventual clearance on the black, causing a significant upset.
The Exocet seemed gracious in defeat, handing his cue and case to a young man in the crowd, bringing to an end his nightmare of tip problems (BBC reports claimed he had used as many as 21 different tips during the fortnight, O'Sullivan later stating he had used 7 before arriving in Sheffield and a further 8 during the week) and promising to return next season with a brand new cue from expert cuemaker John Parris.
At the time of exit, he had made 5 century breaks and held the top two places in the highest break stakes, having scored both a 140 and 139.
While Ronnie has been playing professional snooker, only one player has made a 147 against him.
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