Ronald Antonio O’Sullivan is widely believed to be one of the most naturally gifted snooker players in the history of the game. His quick, entertaining and somewhat controversial playing style has made him a favourite among fans and one of the most famous players to date.
With an array of tournament wins, classic matches, maximum breaks and outlandish statements to his name, he is surely one of the most compelling players of all time. He has been called a genius, temperamental and a showman, always giving fans something to talk about. He has been compared to Jimmy White and Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins in the past, due to his unrivalled popularity and sheer natural skill.
Ronnie O’Sullivan started playing snooker from a very early age and turned professional at just 16. In his amateur days he scored his first 147 maximum break when he was just 15, and his first century break when he was barely 10.
Turing pro, O’Sullivan won the first 38 matches of his career, a record that still stands today. In 1993 he became the youngest player ever to qualify for the World Championships. He went on to lose against Alan McManus 10-7 in the first round and ended his first season ranked 57th in the world. In the same year, he was the youngest player ever to win a ranking tournament, the UK Championship, aged 17.
In 1995, O’Sullivan won his first Masters title and started to become the centre of attention. In the 1996 World Championships, O’Sullivan came up against Alain Robidoux and displayed a talent that few can rival. Being naturally right-handed, O’Sullivan began to play left-handed during the match. Robidoux accused him of being disrespectful and Ronnie responded that he was a better player with his left hand than Robidoux was with his right.
O’Sullivan was called to a disciplinary hearing following Robidoux’s formal complaint, where he had to prove his skill with his left hand. He played three frames against former snooker star Rex Williams and won them all. The charge of bringing the game into disrepute was dropped.
However, the tournament was not without further incident, as O’Sullivan was found guilty of assaulting a media official. He was given a two year suspended sentence, a £20,000 fine and advised to donate £10,000 to charity.
In November 1997, O’Sullivan won his second UK Championship, beating Stephen Hendry 10-6 in the final. He followed this up with a win in the Benson & Hedges Irish Masters, beating Ken Doherty in the final. However, in typical controversial fashion, O’Sullivan was stripped of his title after a drugs test found marijuana in his system.
On his return to snooker in 1999, O’Sullivan reached the semi-finals of the Embassy World Championships, only to lose to Stephen Hendry 17-14. In the 1999-2000 season he won three ranking titles including the China and Scottish Opens. However, the season ended in disappointment as he failed to capitalise upon Hendry’s early elimination in the 2000 World Championships, exiting the tournament in the first round after losing 10-9 to David Gray.
In 2001, O’Sullivan finally won the elusive World Championship title, defeating John Higgins 18-14 in the final. He also won the third UK title of his career, beating Ken Doherty 10-1 in the process. At the start of the 2002/03 season, O’Sullivan was ranked No.1 in the world.
O’Sullivan failed to make the most of this ranking, as he lost to Hendry 17-13 in the semi-finals of the World Championships the following year.
In 2003 O’Sullivan enjoyed far more success. He won the Scottish Masters, the European Open and the Irish Masters, although he was knocked out of the World Championships in the first round by Marco Fu, for the third time in his career. This defeat cost O’Sullivan the top spot as he dropped to No.3 in the rankings.
However, his disappointment was soon to turn to joy. With the help of Ray Reardon, the six-time World Champion, O’Sullivan claimed his second World Title, beating Graeme Dott 18-8 in the final. On his way to the final, O’Sullivan had beaten rival Stephen Hendry 17-4 in the semis. This was the heaviest defeat in a World Championship semi-final. O’Sullivan reclaimed his No.1 spot and remained at the summit for the next two years.
Suffering a defeat to Peter Ebdon in the 2005 World Championships, O’Sullivan announced that he would be playing only a minor part in the season as he would be competing in the International Pool Tour in the US. However, the IPT clashed with O’Sullivan’s defence of his Premier League title, so he changed his plans and went on to a successful defence.
The season that followed provided more success as O’Sullivan won the Masters and the Welsh Open titles.
O’Sullivan was the centre of more controversy en route to the 2006 World Championship semi-final. With hard fought wins in the first two rounds against Dave Harold and Ryan Day, O’Sullivan faced Mark Williams in the quarter-finals. In a similar fashion to earlier victories, O’Sullivan was pushed all the way, scraping a 13-11 win to meet Graeme Dott in the semi finals.
During the competition, O’Sullivan had been plagued with cue tip problems and they continued in the semi-final. Television footage seemed to show O’Sullivan deliberately removing the tip from his cue to gain a 15-minute break. It was decided that this was just an accident but Dott went on to win the match, leaving O’Sullivan criticised for un-sportsman like behaviour.
This controversy continued in December during a quarter-final match against Hendry in the UK Championships. O’Sullivan conceded the match part way into the sixth frame after leaving himself with a difficult shot. The match was awarded to Hendry 9-1. O’Sullivan issued a statement later that day apologising and saying he would be back soon, fighting harder than ever. O’Sullivan was fined £20,000 and docked 900 ranking points over the incident.
O’Sullivan returned to action in the 2007 Saga Insurance Masters, where he defeated Ding Junhui 10-3 in the final. He was commended for his good sportsmanship in the match, as he comforted Ding when he became upset by a member of the crowd, who was ejected immediately.
O’Sullivan went on to lose in the first round of the Malta Cup and the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open. This provoked him into making changes to his playing style for the upcoming Irish Masters. He won the title with wins over Higgins in the semi-final and Barry Hawkins in the final, to win the first ever Paul Hunter trophy.
In 2007, O’Sullivan claimed that the draw for the World Championships was fixed when he was drawn against Ding Junhui again. The claim was denied by World Snooker and later retracted by O’Sullivan.
He went on to win the match easily and was eventually knocked out by Higgins in the quarter final 13-9.
At the time of writing, O’Sullivan has achieved around 500 competitive centuries, second to only Stephen Hendry and has amassed earnings of around £5 million. He is ranked in 5th place for the 2007/08 season, dropping two places.
O’Sullivan’s father, Ronald John O’Sullivan, is currently serving a life sentence for murder on the Isle of Sheppey following his conviction in 1992. His mother, Maria Antionetta O’Sullivan, was also subject to legal proceedings when she served a seven-month sentence for tax evasion in 1996.
Ronnie himself was caught speeding in 1995 and received a yearlong ban from driving and a £1,200 fine.
O’Sullivan has two daughters, Taylor-Ann and Lilly, as well as a son, Ronnie.
World Championship – 2001, 2004
UK Championship – 1993, 1997, 2001
British Open – 1994
German Open – 1996
Scottish Open – 1998, 2000, 2002
China Open – 1996, 1999, 2000
European Open – 2003
Irish Masters – 2003, 2005
Welsh Open – 2004, 2005
Grand Prix – 2004.
Masters – 1995, 2005, 2007
Premier League – 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005 (04/05), 2005 (05/06), 2006
Benson and Hedges Championship – 1993