Ronnie O’Sullivan’s outburst about the current state of snooker has produced the most extraordinary amount of coverage in the media.
In many ways this disapproves the central point that nobody is interested in snooker: if this were true then these media outlets wouldn’t be covering the story at all.
But, for me, the most remarkable part of Ronnie’s press conference was his revelation that he had snapped his cue two days before the Masters and this has been largely overlooked.
What a strange thing to do. Ronnie, though, is impulsive. He does things and has to deal with the consequences later.
John Parris, the renowned cue-maker, came to the rescue. He is often asked to make cues like Ronnie’s so had a few in stock and did not have to start from scratch.
Even so, for O’Sullivan to make two centuries with the new cue against Joe Perry is some feat. It is only the third cue he has ever used (he gave away the first, you will recall, after losing to Graeme Dott at the Crucible in 2006, which was either a generous gesture or an attempt to hog the limelight depending on your viewpoint).
Players become attached to cues. They become used to them.
Stephen Hendry’s trusty cue, with which he won all seven of his world titles, was broken beyond repair by Heathrow baggage handlers in 2003. Although he won tournaments after this I am convinced that it played a part in his gradual decline.
Hendry has used at least three cues since but has not found the same success.
(The original model was stolen during the 1990 Grand Prix at Reading and Hendry offered a £10,000 reward for its safe return – that is how important it was to him and his career.)
Alain Robidoux is a prime example of how a player can lose all confidence once they lose their cue.
In 1997, Robidoux reached the Crucible semi-finals and rose to a career high of ninth in the world rankings.
He returned his cue to the man who had manufactured it for some minor repairs. However, the cue-maker was a stick-in-the-mud traditionalist who was aghast to find Robidoux had attached a sponsor’s logo to the cue.
So he promptly smashed it into several pieces.
Robidoux said it was ‘like losing an arm.’ He didn’t win a single match the following season, suffered from depression and eventually fell off the circuit.
Around 18 months after the cue was broken I asked Alain what he thought of the cue-maker in the cold light of day.
His reply was heartfelt. “I want to kill him,” he said.
O’Sullivan has such talent that he can win the Masters despite using a new cue. He has had five days to practise with it since beating Perry and will doubtless have adapted to it very quickly.
The cue with which he won the World Championship last year should have ended up in a museum, not in several pieces.
Perhaps he just wanted to give himself a new challenge but this was a drastic way to go about it.