Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he can avoid a Crucible meltdown as he closes in on a fifth world championship title.
O’Sullivan credits sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters as the key figure behind his wellbeing on and off the table, with the once-volatile 37-year-old former world No 1 now capable of keeping his feelings in check.
Where once O’Sullivan could lose focus in a flash, working with Peters has prepared him for the long-haul demands of snooker’s stiffest test.
He has overcome Marcus Campbell and Ali Carter and looked to have one foot in the semi-finals after racing to a 7-1 lead yesterday in his last-eight match against fellow Essex player Stuart Bingham.
O’Sullivan made breaks of 79, 54, 111, 60, 87, 133 and 78 in one of the finest performances he has produced at the Crucible.
Barring a dramatic collapse, he will secure his place in the final four today, possibly with a session to spare.
Not since Stephen Hendry won five in a row from 1992 to 1996 has a world champion successfully defended the title. O’Sullivan said: “I’m managing my emotions a lot better now. In the past there’d have been a moment in my matches against Marcus and Ali when I’d have probably thought, ‘I want to be out of here, I want to go home’, and I’d have not deliberately lost but, subconsciously, I would have given up.
“That won’t happen again, none of those meltdowns will happen, no matter how frustrated I may be with myself out there.
“Dr Steve Peters has been great to me. I’ve really worked hard with Steve and tried to take on board everything he’s shown me and spoken to me about and obviously I’m benefiting from it massively.
“It doesn’t mean I’m going to win every match I play in. I suppose in some ways that’s what endeared me to people, that I cracked up out there sometimes. They’d all want to make sure I’m all right, and the next tournament I’d come out and win and it’d be a rollercoaster of ‘which Ronnie’s going to turn up’.
“In the last two years I’ve changed a lot. I’m able not to let my chimp out.”
The “chimp” theory is an integral part of Peters’ mind management programme. He teaches his patients to keep the “chimp”, bearer of strong emotions, caged in order to direct focus to the task at hand.
Chester’s Ricky Walden made a bright start to his quarter-final against Welsh qualifier Michael White as he moved 6-2 in front.
But he made a best break of only 40, while Walden finished the session in style with a run of 113.
Kent’s Barry Hawkins savoured his first experience of a World Championship quarter-final as he built a 9-7 lead against China’s Ding Junhui. Leading 5-3 from their opening session, world No 14 Hawkins, 33, increased that to 8-4 by the mid-session interval.
No doubt aware that former UK and Masters champion Ding had produced an inspired middle session in seeing off Mark King in the second round, Hawkins managed to keep the pressure on his 26-year-old opponent, who lives in Sheffield, ahead of this morning’s concluding session.
Ding finished his evening’s work in style with a break of 72 to stay within touching distance.