Ronnie O’Sullivan believes behind closed doors snooker is like being in ‘prison’, writes Will Jennings.
The world No.6 recently played at the Championship League event at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena, easing through his group before losing to 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham to halt his progression to the final four.
The five-time world champion was adapting to the new normal at the venue, having to deal with multiple Covid-19 tests and solitary confinement owing to the current coronavirus restrictions.
The Rocket resented those limitations on his freedom but ahead of the Betfred World Championship at the Crucible, accepts the measures were necessary in the current climate.
“Really, it’s like playing snooker in a prison,” O’Sullivan, 44, said.
“Milton Keynes was like being in a prison, really - you had to eat the food they gave you, you couldn’t go anywhere that you wanted to go and you couldn’t do the things that you wanted to do that you can normally do at home.
“The protocol and restrictions I wasn’t quite prepared for, and that’s something going forward, [I need to think about] is going to be sustainable for me.
“A lot of things you used to be able to control at events - where you stay, what you eat and what you do with your day - has been taken away.
“I didn’t enjoy being stuck in a room in a facility and not being able to get out - I really, really struggled with that.
“If it’s [the World Championships] going to be like Milton Keynes and you’re being locked away in a hotel and you can’t go and get your own food or go for a run in the morning, that’s going to be tough and I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with that.”
O’Sullivan beat the trio of Chris Wakelin, Michael Georgiou and Kishan Hirani at the Marshall Arena to progress into the winners’ group stage behind closed doors.
There he also toppled Harvey Chandler and Sam Craigie, before world No.14 Bingham rekindled his spirit of 2015 - where he beat O’Sullivan 13-9 in the World Championship quarter-finals - to dash the Rocket’s hopes.
O’Sullivan’s contest with Craigie - which he won 3-1 - was marred in off-table controversy, however, with the world No.62 hitting out at the five-time world champion for consistently sniffing throughout the four-frame battle.
Ronnie O’Sullivan: Night in prison was ‘better’ than playing snooker in biosecure bubble https://t.co/oZJKVvCdWz— Indy Sport (@IndySport) June 10, 2020
Craigie branded O’Sullivan ‘daft’ and ‘embarrassing’ but the Rocket insists his persistent discomfort came from a legitimate source.
“I had my Covid test when they put that thing down your throat and shove it up your nose, and the first one was okay,” he added.
“But then the second test that I had to have done, they busted my nose up! So I ended up with a ruptured nose and had a runny nose for two days, which was no good.
“And then one of my opponents made a complaint saying ‘well, Ronnie shouldn’t really be coming if he’s not well’, but I was in great shape!
“It’s just that they busted my nose from shoving this thing up my nose!
“That wasn’t ideal and I wouldn’t want to go through that type of testing again, so hopefully they can come up with a better test that’s not so intrusive.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship and qualifying from 21st July – 16th August.