'My head was gone' - Ronnie O'Sullivan opens up about famous walk-out during match against Stephen Hendry
When Ronnie O'Sullivan walked out of his match against fellow legend Stephen Hendry at the 2006 UK Championship it was much more than a fleeting display of petulance, as he explained on the two-part Eurosport show Seventh Heaven. O'Sullivan told friend and fellow pro Alan McManus that, at the time, his "head was gone" and he was only able to change his mindset by working with Dr Steve Peters.
'I'm not a better player, I'm a better thinker' - O'Sullivan on mental transformation
Ronnie O'Sullivan has opened up about his famous walk-out during his match against Stephen Hendry as part of the Eurosport show Seventh Heaven.
The Rocket, speaking to his good friend and former rival, Alan McManus, discussed in-depth the transformation he has gone through in the mental side of his snooker game and beyond. The conversation was part of the special two-hour show on discovery+ and Eurosport.
O'Sullivan started working with Steve Peters at the age of 35 in 2011 following a very tough spell in his career and personal life. Since then, the pair have forged a very positive partnership - with the 46-year-old able to reflect on the work they have done together to turn his mentality around.
The seven-time world champion famously conceded the entire match against fellow legendary player Hendry at the 2006 UK Championship as he walked out of their encounter to leave his opponent and the audience stunned.
Looking back, O'Sullivan believes that it was "the devil inside me" and explained how Peters helped him to be less impulsive when he is having a bad day, an outlook that has helped him considerably in his snooker career.
"Pre-Steve Peters, I think I walked out in a match against Stephen Hendry," O'Sullivan recalled in the show.
"My head was gone. I wasn't playing well and I didn't want to be there. I shook hands and walked out.
"A lot of it was in-the-moment stuff. It was just reacting, 'I'm playing rubbish, don't want to be here, can't win this match'. So it was just kind of trying to ignore that voice, even though it is still there.
"Even though I still thought I wanted to act on impulse, I kind of stopped becoming impulsive. I realised that is the devil inside me.
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"There have been probably a handful of matches since I've been working with Steve Peters where I've not thrown the towel in, but not fancied it. Whereas pre-Steve Peters, I would have had eight or nine tournaments a year like that where I would have been like 'I'm out of here'.
"So that is a huge turnaround and I have allowed myself to compete more often. I am not a better player but I am a better thinker."
Thinking further back to his maiden World Championship triumph at the Crucible in 2001, O'Sullivan said on the show that the pressure lifted as a result of the breakthrough was immense for him.
"Once I had won the World Championships, I felt that I did not have anything to prove," he said.
"For my own peace of mind and to get that monkey off my own back, that was probably the most important tournament I had ever won.
"I think I changed as a person and as a player then. With that out of the way, I was able to just go out there and play after that.
"I am a lot better now at just taking it for what it is and keeping it in its right place: win, lose or draw, it does not really matter."
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The Home Nations series returns on Sunday with the Northern Ireland Open live and exclusive on discovery+. You can also watch Seventh Heaven, a two-part show about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s historic World Championship win last season, on-demand.