Ronnie O'Sullivan admits he hasn’t enjoyed his snooker for a ‘long time’ after his tilt at Crucible history came to an end, writes Will Jennings.
But the six-time world champion reckons he needs to keep on playing to keep his newfound ‘business model’ sustainable.
O’Sullivan’s bid to equal Stephen Hendry’s seven Sheffield titles came to an end on Friday night after he was beaten by world No.16 Anthony McGill in a second round thriller.
The Rocket has not tasted silverware since soaring to Crucible glory in August and admits he’s struggling for his old motivation to pick up a cue.
O’Sullivan, 45, who has lost in five major finals this year, said: “I’ve really struggled to enjoy it. I haven’t enjoyed it for quite a while.
“I can’t really be bothered – I’m looking at my watch thinking: ‘how quickly can I get out of this arena?’ whether it’s the first round, second round or final.
“Unless I play well, I don’t really want to be out there. I’m going to play for five years because I like the lifestyle, I’ve got great relationships with my sponsors and I’d be crazy not to.
“Everything I do compliments each other – I’ve got it as good as I’ve ever got it. It’s just about trying to enjoy the game and not crucify myself. I was able to do that today, which was great.
“Hopefully I’m just able to enjoy the game – it doesn’t really matter to me whether I win or lose. I see my career and myself as a business – winning and losing.
“I’m quite privileged – I have to be grateful for what I’ve got and where I am. All I can do is stay in a good frame of mind and turn up. I need to play two good weeks a year and everyone on my side of the fence is happy.”
O’Sullivan captured snooker hearts with a memorable sixth Sheffield title last summer but was unable to keep his bid to equal Hendry’s record alive.
The Rocket went down in a Friday night epic after McGill, a semi-finalist last year, held himself together with remarkable maturity to battle over the line.
O’Sullivan had raced into a 4-1 lead in the first session before Glasgow’s McGill pegged him back at four frames apiece.
And a breathtaking Friday morning assault from the Scot saw him head into the evening session with a 10-6 advantage over the 37-time ranking event winner.
O’Sullivan came flying out of the traps on Friday night as breaks of 71, 97 and 73 reeled McGill in and levelled at 10-10.
The Rocket then nudged himself in front before a brilliant, bold break of 136 from McGill teed up a tantalising decider.
And the two-time ranking event winner showed experience beyond his years to hoover up an 85 clearance and book a quarter-final clash against either Stuart Bingham or Jamie Jones.
O’Sullivan holds nearly every record there is in the game and says he has ‘five or ten’ more years on the hectic snooker circuit.
He reckons just showing up is the main thing and is taking inspiration from some fellow sporting immortals heading into the twilight of his career.
The world No.2 added: “It’s like Roger Federer and Tiger Woods – just seeing them on the start line, that’s all that people want to see.
“I just have to use that to my advantage and not get too down on myself, if I can. It’s hard because I would have liked to have another match here but it’s not meant to be.
“I don’t have anything to prove – if anything, I’ve set the yardstick for everyone else to try and catch, and I’m still playing. It’s not a bad situation to be in.
“There are some very, very good players about – I could get it right maybe one more time but [World Championship titles] probably the only record I haven’t got.
“The only important thing for me is to keep playing – it is a business and if I don’t play, part of my business probably wouldn’t do well. I’ve got a lot of things happening and they happen much better if I play.
“I’ve just got to try and find some enjoyment if I can – that’s the only thing I struggle with, accepting that I cant play well all the time, because it’s such a nice feeling when you do.”
Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3