UK Championship snooker 2020: Ronnie O'Sullivan set to make Masters return, but reveals concerns
World champion Ronnie O'Sullivan admits he wants to play in the Masters in January, but is keen to seek assurances that he will not be overwhelmed by media demands during the sport's biggest invitational event at Alexandra Palace. 1,000 fans could be allowed into a tournament that O'Sullivan decided to opt out of last season after being unhappy with the strain put on his time in 2019.
O'Sullivan overcame 2011 winner Ding Junhui 6-3 in the semi-finals, but felt his preparations for the final were disrupted ahead of a 10-4 defeat to Judd Trump a day later.
The six-times Crucible winner said the situation resolved itself after his 17-16 win over Mark Selby in the semi-finals of the delayed World Championship in August, but wants similar "protocols" put in place at the Alexandra Palace, annual host of the London tournament since 2012.
“The ticket situation and requests for tickets is a big one for me,” he told Eurosport. “Then you have the media commitments. Like I’ve said, the reason I didn’t play in the Masters last year was because I felt after I won my semi-final (in 2019) there was so much time taken we couldn’t prepare as well enough for the final as I’d have liked to have done.
“I’ve said, if I do reach the final then I’m happy to give an hour of my time, but after that I need to get home to get some rest.
“Thankfully, after the World Championship semi-finals, they agreed to that. I’ve put them protocols down for myself because I do want to play in those tournaments.
“You want to play and give it your best. You don’t want to get to the final and your time is spent trying to make some kind of commercial.
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“Meanwhile, you feel like you should be resting up getting ready for the final. The job isn’t done until you’ve finished the tournament," said O'Sullivan, whose replacement Ali Carter lost 10-8 to Stuart Bingham in last season's final.
“Anything that distracts you up until that point has to come at a minimum or at least your priorities have to be considered.
“As long as they are considered, and you can work with the promoters and they are understanding, I shouldn’t see an issue in me playing.
“But the minute that treads the line and your needs aren’t really cared for or even considered, that will be the time when I think I’m maybe better off missing the tournament or not playing my next match because the most important thing as a sportsman is to be able to do your job properly."
O'Sullivan remains the youngest winner of the event involving the sport's top 16 players. He was aged 19 years and 69 days when he defeated John Higgins 9-3 in the 1995 final.
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He has since claimed six more victories at the Masters in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016 and 2017 to pass Stephen Hendry's haul of six won between 1989 and 1996.
“It’s important for the fans to get to see the best version of yourself because they pay good money and want to see you deliver on the table," said O'Sullivan, who faces Swiss number one Alexander Ursenbacher in the last 64 of the UK Championship on Sunday afternoon.
“Part of that is you managing your time away from the table. I always think that my fans deserve the best possible standard of play.”
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Image credit: Eurosport
The rest of the snooker year is set to continue to be played behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes with the UK Championship, Scottish Open and World Grand Prix all taking up temporary residence at the venue due to the global pandemic.
O'Sullivan is keen on a change of scene with the return of fans needed to enhance the atmosphere.
“You can eat steak and chips every day, but sometimes you just want a bit of beans and toast and a couple of fried eggs with a bit of tomato ketchup splashed over it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good the steak is. Every day, you just go like, really?
“Don’t get me wrong, it is alright, but I think playing every tournament without crowds and not at different venues, it feels like you are going through the motions.
“That’s why I was so disappointed we aren’t going to York for the UK Championship. I thought it would have been a treat for the players to maybe experience an event away from Milton Keynes.”
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