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Ssb - o'sullivan walks the walk

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  • Ssb - o'sullivan walks the walk

    Ronnie O'Sullivan has told World Snooker he will not play again this season, meaning he misses the UK Championship, Masters and, most importantly, the defence of his world title.

    The closing date for the World Championship is actually next week so he could in theory change his mind but those close to him say this is unlikely.

    We're used to various descriptions of O'Sullivan: the tortured genius, the mercurial star dogged by demons.

    It's actually simpler than this: he suffers from depression. He has suffered from it since he was a teenager. It's a real condition which is why he has my sympathy.

    I've seen him when he's been really down. I've seen him in tears.

    Those who ask how a millionaire such as Ronnie can be depressed may as well ask how someone rich and famous can get a brain tumour. Mental illness afflicts people in every walk of life.

    However it's also true that O'Sullivan has at various times in his career behaved petulantly and this means he has exhausted the patience of many, including some of his own fans.

    He shares many characteristics with Alex Higgins: unconventional, uncompromising people who found an outlet in snooker and who produced exquisite skill and great theatre, bringing people to the game, but always with the flame of self destruction burning away in the background.

    In terms of what he has been capable of doing on the snooker table I've never seen a better player than Ronnie. Snooker, though, is a sport unremitting in exposing mental frailties.

    Even though he has won far more than most, many would feel he could have won more. He may still, but not this season.

    Cod psychiatry at a time like this is unhelpful but it isn't hard to trace back the imprisonment of his father for murder in 1992 as the major turning point in O'Sullivan's life.

    He seemed to have an ideal of what life would be like when he was released which has not been realised.

    But these are personal matters and, away from snooker and the limelight, O'Sullivan has time now to work on his problems.

    If he does come back it will be at a much lower ranking, potentially outside the top 32.

    That would represent a challenge. It could be an effort too far.

    Snooker isn't O'Sullivan's problem but he obviously feels it isn't a help either.

    O'Sullivan is one of snooker's all time greats. A fascinating, complex, contradictory character who, like Higgins before him, delighted and maddened in almost equal measure.

    Snooker goes on but it will miss him. Whether he misses it will determine whether he ever plays again.