World Snooker: Why the Rocket could come back as a World title winner

Glad to be back . . . Ronnie O'Sullivan announcing his return to The Crucible

Ronnie O'Sullivan is coming out of self imposed exile to defend his World Snooker title at The Crucible. Ralph Ellis reckons that realising just how much he missed the sport will help his chances of winning again.

“I was lying in bed until 11am and not doing anything. I realised I needed some aim and focus. So I started to hit a few balls and got a bit of a buzz.” - Ronnie O'Sullivan

We all like the idea of retiring. Me? Well if the lottery numbers came up I've always thought I'd buy a place in Spain, play a lot more golf, and have enough lessons to play it properly. That would probably be enough lessons to use up most of a lottery win, but there you go.

Actually, there's a "but" to all those leisure plans. I'd still want to be back at work every Saturday with my Sunday Mirror hat on, covering a Premier League match. There's an adrenalin buzz that comes from enjoying the spectacle, the action and the atmosphere, but then having only 45 minutes once the final whistle blows to sum it all up in 600 words or so.

I guess I'm lucky that I enjoy what I do for a living, and it's not so much like that for most people. But I figure that if you do love your working life then absolute retirement wouldn't be such a good idea. And it seems that Ronnie O'Sullivan has come to the same conclusion.

The Rocket turned his back on the sport last year not long after winning his fourth World Championship. His battles with depression, and with a whole load of other issues, were well documented and he thought he could walk away at the top. If he had any doubts then a 4-3 loss to the world number 76 Simon Bedford in a low key event in Gloucester in September confirmed his decision.

But clearly it wasn't that simple. O'Sullivan confirmed yesterday that he'll be back to defend his World Title at The Crucible in April, and most of that was because, quite simply, he just couldn't stop playing the sport he loves. "I was lying in bed until 11am and not doing anything," he admitted yesterday. "I realised I needed some aim and focus. So I started to hit a few balls and got a bit of a buzz."

O'Sullivan's status as the game's great entertainer - and its current world champion even if his ranking has dropped to 24 - means he is being welcomed back with open arms to defend his title. So the only question now is whether he'll be in any sort of shape to do it.

Last year I backed him to win at The Crucible at 6.611/2 after a promising first round, when it seemed clear the work he'd done with sports psychologist Steve Peters was paying dividends. There's not quite so much value to be had this time - he is already 7.613/2 second favourite behind Judd Trump in Betfair's market to be world title winner. (Although that is good news for the man who got a pound matched at 75.074/1 some time ago).

He's tried to play down his chances, suggesting there could be comparisons with Ricky Hatton's disastrous attempt at a comeback. But the difference is that you don't have to be at a peak of physical fitness to play snooker. And in Ronnie's case his talent is unquestioned providing his temperament stands up to the test.

The fact he's realised he's there because he loves what he does, and not just because it's what has always paid the bills, suggests he could be in exactly the right frame of mind again. Retirement? Who needs it?

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