It seems absurd to many that Ronnie O’Sullivan could be so down on himself despite what looked to most of us like an excellent performance in battling back from 3-0 down to beat Neil Robertson 6-4 in the Pokerstars.com Masters yesterday.
Ronnie said that he was playing his best snooker at 15 or 16. Can this really be true? My colleague Phil Yates, who spent many a week at the qualifiers in Blackpool when O’Sullivan turned professional in 1992, certainly believes he was every bit as good then as he is now.
But you do not have to be a trained psychologist to recognise that Ronnie’s life was happier then as well because this was just before his father, Ronnie senior, was jailed for murder.
Ronnie’s entire character was shaped by his father. He gave him his confidence, his self belief and provided him with everything he needed to become a top snooker player.
So at 15/16, O’Sullivan played snooker without a care in the world before his world came crashing down around him.
It’s impossible to say whether he would have suffered from depression regardless of his father’s incarceration but he seems to find it hard to derive joy from the way he plays, even if many others love watching him.
How will he change when his father is permanently released from prison this year?
It could go one of two ways: he could either raise his game or may feel the pressure of having to perform more acutely than before.
Ronnie doesn’t ask for sympathy - and some would doubtless argue he doesn’t deserve any - but it’s important to understand the man and his background before merely slamming what he says after apparently playing very well indeed.