Snooker king Ronnie O’Sullivan says he’s learned to deal with pressure like Prince William - but wants to run away from it all like Prince Harry! writes Will Jennings.
The Rocket recently took to the Crucible baize for the 28th time in his glittering career, requiring just 108 minutes to dispatch Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and obliterate the record for the quickest World Championship match.
Five world titles, seven UK Championships and seven Masters crowns have placed the world No.6 in the terrain of snooker royalty, capturing the hearts of fans and also scooping a gong on the 2016 New Year Honours list as he was awarded an OBE.
Those achievements have attracted intense public scrutiny but the Rocket admits he’d love to do a Harry-esque ‘runner’ as he vies to make the Crucible his palace once more.
“I’ve had that since the age of 10 or 11, and that expectation level is in many ways like Prince William groomed to be king,” the 44-year-old said.
“If you said to me ‘do you want Prince William’s role?’ I wouldn’t know where to begin, but he’s had it since a child and it just becomes natural, I suppose.
“For me, that’s the same metaphor for snooker - as a youngster, I’ve learned to deal with pressure and playing under pressure at junior, amateur, professional ranks.
“He’s [Harry] done a runner! I don’t know, it’s strange - he’s done a runner from it and doesn’t want the spotlight, and I’ve been trying to do that all my life!
“I’ve tried to do it as well as I can and that’s why you don’t see me at the venue much, and I try and keep as much privacy as I can.
“Obviously whatever I say they’re always trying to get a comment or a quote and it’s a bit of a headline, and even when other players are interviewed, it’s always about me.
“‘What do you think of what Ronnie said?’ or ‘what do you think of what Ronnie does?’ so I can’t really win either way, unless I just have a complete personality overall change.
“I’ve obviously got my gong. Have I met the family? They don’t want to meet me, do they?!”
O’Sullivan will face world No.11 Ding Junhui in a tantalising last 16 duel in Sheffield, as he bids to avenge his defeat in the UK Championship where the Chinese player romped to his 14th ranking event title.
Ding, a three-time king of that Triple Crown tournament, is still 22 events shy of O’Sullivan’s ranking event record, however, who kickstarted his thrilling run of success with a triumph at the same competition back in 1993.
Those 36 ranking events, five of which came on the greatest stage of all between 2001 and 2013, make the Rocket the joint-most decorated snooker player of all time – along with Stephen Hendry – having also racked up 1044 century breaks across a remarkable career.
He’s in relaxed mode as he bids to narrow the gap on Hendry’s seven world titles, however, and reckons the pressure is off after claiming virtually every trophy there is to win in the game.
“I don’t see it as ‘oh, there’s this pressure there’ - it’s just something you learn to live with, I suppose, and not even live with, but handle that situation,” he added.
“It’s still the Crucible and still the World Championships - everybody wants to win the World Championships, but for me, I’ve won it five times and it’s great to have won it five times but there’s a lot less pressure on me because I’ve already done it.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.