Ronnie O'Sullivan exclusive: 'This season has been a nightmare, but I’m good enough to end slump'
In writing his first blog of the season, Ronnie O’Sullivan explains to Eurosport’s Desmond Kane why he has struggled for peak form.
Despite losing a thrilling European Masters final 9-8 to Judd Trump earlier this month, the five-times world champion is not happy with his game after losing to Michael Holt in the last 16 of the International Championship and Shanghai Masters and the last 32 of the English Open to Chris Wakelin.
Here Ronnie discusses honestly the ongoing challenges he faces to remain competitive, and why he may have to accept losing to become a winner again.
'I must improve to challenge for trophies'
It's not been a great start to the season.
In fact, I’d say it's been a bit of a nightmare.
I've feel like I’ve only played two or three good matches out of 15 - that works out at one good match in five which is not really going to be enough to win events these days.
To be fair, since winning the Welsh Open earlier this year, I haven’t gone beyond the last 16 of any event apart from losing to Judd in the European Masters final in Bucharest.
I partly put that down to not preparing right. Maybe I’m focusing on too many competitions, and not practising enough.
Or maybe I’ve been too playing too much exhibition stuff over the last 12 months. Who knows?
‘Time and tide wait for no sportsperson’
Maybe part of this process is about having some acceptance, and realising that I can't put all my eggs in one basket with snooker.
It was okay in my 20s and even my mid-thirties, but I’m now in my early 40s.
I'm not sure I want the pressure of it all. I’ve enjoyed branching out into other areas away from the table.
It is something I never wanted to do, but I felt I had no choice at my age and stage of my career .
Snooker is very hard these days. There are loads of events, and lots of travelling.
Unless you win tournaments regularly, there are not great rewards for the top players. But the demands are no less when you have to travel to Barnsley, Wigan and Preston to play qualifying matches.
It is not something I relish, but I accept it is part of the way the game has gone.
I admit it was hard sitting out the sport when I still felt like I had something to offer. That's why I came back to playing after some time out. But after coming back, the idea of playing was better than the reality.
What I really missed was being at the events and getting the buzz from playing: seeing the boys, the TV people and the tournament officials.
They are like a tapestry of my life. That's why I've enjoyed the punditry work so much, and working at the English Open in Manchester earlier this month.
In fact, I got as much enjoyment out of doing the punditry as I do playing sometimes - that's great news as I look to the future.
‘I'm committed to snooker, but not only as a player’
I'll still play snooker just in case everything else goes belly up. That's the one thing I can do forever without having a boss.
But for now, it will have to fit in around all the other things I do. I need to make snooker become part of what I do, instead of all I do.
The fun bit is seeing if I can nick a competition now and again. I nearly managed it in Romania, but came up short.
I suppose the fans that follow me will have to get their heads around it, just like I'm trying to. I still know that on my game I'm capable of winning events. That I have no doubt about.
But finding the time to practice and play in most of the events at the highest level is proving very difficult.
You don't always want to go to the club and play for four or five hours, the drive is not the same as you get older.
Maybe I feel like I've had the wind taken out of my sails a bit, and to keep trying to come back into the game after so many lay-offs makes it tougher.
Hence I feel my form will be much more up and down as a consequence of not staying on top of things when I was flying.
The saving grace for me, is that I'm quite happy with my CV. In many ways, it's not a bad place to be.
‘Fans deserve to see more matches between elite players’
If at some point in the future, the game’s best players have more top events to play in then that might get my desire back. That would suit my type of play and situation.
It's a lot easier to win four or five matches, like the Masters in London, than seven when you get older.
At the moment, the tour seems like it's there to cater for 128 players which at my stage of my career makes it a mammoth challenge.
Playing seven matches is hard enough, but to go to Preston and Barnsley to qualify as well just makes it too gruelling.
It's fine for the younger guys starting out, but it's not really suitable for me. It wasn't suitable for me five years ago so it's only going to get worse as I get older.
But I also have to accept that my best days are probably behind me. I don't think they are going to get any better than the previous five years I had.
I suppose what I'm trying to do is manage everyone's expectations of me from this moment on.
Don't get me wrong, I know things can be fickle. One minute you're flying, the next you are not.
I know things can turn around quickly. No one wants that more than me.