Snooker prepares for the return of the Rocket

Ronnie O'Sullivan is coming back from retirement
Ronnie O’Sullivan is coming back from retirement

Jamie Kirby

World Snooker Championships

Upon hearing the news that Ronny ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan would be taking a long-term sabbatical from snooker in November, the revision timetables of many students began to look even more daunting as they looked ahead to the Snooker World Championships in April. Fortunately the four-time world champion has, despite not competing since November, returned to the Crucible as was announced in February.

After winning the Championship so emphatically last season O’Sullivan, who dubbed the win “my greatest performance”, is remaining conservative about his chances this year, after such a long break. Returning as the top seed holds pressure in itself, though it did not show as ‘The Rocket’ confidently dispatched Marcus Campbell 10-4 in the first round, putting him through to the second round where he could face Ali Carter – whom he beat so comfortably in the 2012 final. Of his competitors though, Carter will be the least of O’Sullivan’s worries, as snookers main contenders continue to globalise year-on-year. China has been well represented in the sport for a number of years, with their main man being Ding Junhui.

On the back of his PTC Final win in March, the young man is touted to impress at the Crucible, where he could become Asia’s first World Champion. The Australian Neil Robertson was on the other end of Ding’s PTC final victory, but has fared well this season nonetheless. Despite only winning one ranking event – the China Open – this season, Robertson has also reached three semi-finals and three finals, and won at the Crucible back in 2010. However, while for the Aussie the number ‘three’ has not been so lucky this season, the form player Mark Selby will be hoping to become only the fourth player ever to win the three major tournaments in a single season.

Having won The Masters and UK Championships already, Selby will be looking to achieve a feat which has so far evaded O’Sullivan, as only Stephen Hendry (twice), Steve Davis and Mark Williams have completed this hat-trick in their careers. Selby was disappointed to lose out last year to Barry Hawkins, blaming a bout of illness for his poor display. Hawkins though, set to face Selby should he make the second round, will be looking to repeat this in the arena next week. Of the first round matches so far, few turned up surprises, other than the defeat of John Higgins by Mark Davis, losing 10-6 to the world number 16. Higgins himself is a veteran of the tournament, and attempted to attribute this loss to his old age. He said, “I don’t know if it is old age or not, but I just missed certain shots, and I don’t know how I missed them.” “Maybe the strain of it takes it out of you when you get to your late 30s and 40s.” O’Sullivan, being the same age as the Scot, will be hoping to prove him wrong.

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