Charismatic Ronnie O'Sullivan is clear favourite to win his sixth world title, but Ralph Ellis says there are so many question marks over whether the Rocket will take off.
"Which O'Sullivan will turn up? Well Betfair’s punters go for the genius, making him [3.45] favourite to emerge from the two gruelling weeks at The Crucible as the winner. O’Sullivan himself admits he doesn’t know."
After all this time, and all those trophies, you wouldn't think there would be much in the way of history left for Ronnie O'Sullivan.
You'd be wrong. There's the seven world titles held by Stephen Hendry, of course. Ronnie has been stuck on five since 2013, with Steve Davis and his former coach Ray Reardon ahead of him on six.
But there are other landmarks too. Nobody has ever won six world ranking titles in one season, and O'Sullivan has a chance to do that. He has five so far, and winning the biggest of the lot, the World Snooker Championship which begins on Saturday morning, would tick that particular box.
The only problem? You sense that the Rocket is not the least bit bothered by either of the potential records. He's playing the game for fun these days, and he'll either turn up in genius form and wipe everybody away or barely turn up at all.
Which will it be? Well Betfair's punters go for the genius, making him [3.45] favourite to emerge from the two gruelling weeks at The Crucible as the winner. O'Sullivan himself admits he doesn't know. He's given a revealing interview talking about his emotions as he completes his preparation.
Apparently he now puts a rating on his phone after each tournament. A smiley face if it was fun, a plain face if it was all right, a sad face if it wasn't. Three of his victories have sad faces against them.
The last two years he's been involved in controversies, and he hasn't been to a final since 2014 when he lost to Mark Selby. Since then it's been quarter-final, second round, quarter-final.
He even talks in the latest interview about how he wouldn't mind getting beaten because he then do some TV work, because he's enjoying being a pundit.
O'Sullivan says Selby [5.3] should be favourite. It's easy to forget just how the Jester from Leicester has become the course and distance man, going for his fourth title in five years. You'd certainly take him above third favourite Judd Trump [9.8] whose form has been desperate, reaching only two ranking finals all season.
He'd be the oldest champion since Reardon
You find yourself trying to second guess O'Sullivan's mood. Getting knocked out 6-2 in the first round of the China Open by youngster Elliot Slessor doesn't sound like great form, until you hear this quote: "There's been a few times where I knew had played too much and I knew losing early was the best thing that could happen. You lose early, have a few days off, recover for the next one."
Some 26 years after his first appearance at The Crucible, O'Sullivan remains the game's most charismatic and enigmatic figure. He's box office, he's the star. He gets forgiven all his indiscretions because however much Barry Hearn has moved the sport on, it still needs him to get headlines.
If he wins in Sheffield he'd be the oldest world champion, at 42, since Reardon won as a 45-year-old back in 1978. But can he handle the slog? Will it be a smiley face or a sad one?
If he can he's still the game's best player. If not he's just ordinary. Which Ronnie will turn up? Your guess is as good as mine, but it is always fun waiting to find out.