World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn believes that there is a possibility that Ronnie O’Sullivan will still take part in this year’s World Championships at the Crucible in April but stresses that he needs to make a decision before the end of next month.
O’Sullivan had withdrawn from all snooker events due to “personal issues” and in November his Manager Django Fung, asked if O’Sullivan was contemplating permanent retirement , said: “Yes. Let’s hope not. You never know. Ronnie’s an emotional player.”
He did make a surprise appearance, albeit only as a spectator at last week’s Masters semi-final between Graeme Dott and Mark Selby at Alexandra Palace
“He has until 28 February. He knows the date and it’s up to him,” Hearn told BBC Sport. “If I know Ronnie I think the reason he came Saturday night is because he’s sitting at home watching it on telly saying ‘I used to be good at that game’.
“He’s got a lot of issues he’s trying to clear up. He knows the sport doesn’t revolve around one person, but he knows we love him and we miss him. He’s probably thought about coming back for the World Championship but you can’t ever say what Ronnie is really thinking. He does tend to change his mind every 24 hours.”
O’Sullivan has in the meantime dropped from 9th to 20th in the World rankings but as current holder can claim automatic entry to the Championships in Sheffield.
In a revealing interview in ‘The Sun’ earlier in January, O’Sullivan told the newspaper that he had been working as a volunteer on a farm,adding : “I’ve been cleaning out stables and pig sties, taking down fences, putting rubbish into barrels and clearing mud.”
“It has been mainly manual work, also getting big bales of hay in to feed the animals. I was getting so bored I had to do something, and needed a goal to get out of bed in the morning.
“There are personal things I need to sort out before I can even think of a return. I have until February to make that decision about the Crucible, anyway, but I am still playing every couple of weeks at my mum’s house.”
Among those who do hope that O’Sullivan makes a return to the Crucible are both Mark Selby and his Masters final opponent Neil Robertson.
““He brings a lot to the game. Every time he plays, he always gets big crowds because he’s entertaining to watch and he’s a great player and one of the all-time greats,” said Selby.
“I think it will be a shame if he doesn’t come back for the World Championship, especially because he’s defending champion.”
Robertson concurred, adding “For me, if he comes back, he will be the favourite. He’s such a talented player, he doesn’t really need to keep practising. As long as he’s practising once every couple of weeks, he’ll be all right. We’d love to have him back.”