RONNIE O’Sullivan will inform snooker fans of his future plans today – and one of his former coaches is hoping he will opt to pick his cue up again.
The 37-year-old has played just once since winning a fourth world title last May – a drab loss to the unheralded Simon Bedford in Gloucester – and in November said he would not be seen before the end of the season as he took a self-imposed break.
O’Sullivan has long been blighted by off-table issues but he remains the sport’s biggest draw.
With the entry date for this season’s World Championship on Thursday, leading figures inside the game are torn as to whether or not O’Sullivan will say he is in or out when he fronts up at a London hotel today.
Several bookmakers have him as the tournament favourite already – and former cornerman Dell Hill wants to see him back on the baize.
“I have coached half of the top 64, I have coached England and seven international teams, but I have never coached a player like him,” said Hill. “There is no-one like him.
“I have picked thousands of balls out for Ronnie over time and learned so much from him that I have passed on to other players and coaches. He’s not bigger than the sport but it would be a shame if the game loses him. He’s the best player I have ever seen.”
Hill, who works as a coaching guru at his self-developed ‘Snooker Farm’, was O’Sullivan’s mentor when he won his first world title in 2001.
Considered by almost all who have seen him to be the most talented player of all time, success on the table has not always been at hand, though, with O’Sullivan’s public battles with depression often taking priority over his snooker.
It was for personal reasons that O’Sullivan announced he would be stepping out of the game in November and, despite having threatened to quit throughout his career, he has made a good fist of sticking to his word this time.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has made no secret of his desire to have his ace card back in the game, however, and even admitted he would be happy for a sponsor to back O’Sullivan’s return for the Sheffield tournament, which starts on 20 April.
Without O’Sullivan, seven-time champion Stephen Hendry claims a world win is devalued, and Hill can see where the Scot is coming from.
“I have coached Stephen Hendry, Peter Ebdon, Graeme Dott and more but I have never seen a player cue like Ronnie O’Sullivan,” Hill said.
“At 37 why would he want to pack it in?”