RONNIE O'SULLIVAN, a patient at The Priory clinic this summer, claims to have re-emerged with a new-found zest for life and, on the evidence of his impressive 5-2 victory over Jimmy White in the Champions Cup at Brighton yesterday, this has permeated his snooker.
The circumstances surrounding O'Sullivan's admittance to the private Roehampton establishment remain unclear, but first impressions suggest that O'Sullivan has emotionally benefited from his three-week stay. He began the match explosively with a 140 total clearance to become front-runner for the tournament's Pounds 5,000 highest break prize, and although White rallied from 2-0 adrift to 2-2, O'Sullivan compiled further breaks of 102 and 107, before clearing with 65 in the seventh frame to seal a confidence-boosting win on the black.
"I feel lucky just to be playing here because I was close to quitting," O'Sullivan, frustrated to the point of despair by his search for snooker perfection in recent seasons, said. "I don't want to walk away now, though, because I know I'd regret it somewhere down the line.
"Steve Davis said on television the other day that this is a big season for Ronnie O'Sullivan. I can tell you, it isn't. I'm just happy to be feeling sweet again." O'Sullivan, who beat John Higgins 5-4 in his opening match on Sunday, next plays Matthew Stevens, the Benson and Hedges Masters champion, tomorrow knowing that success will assure him of top spot in group B. Stevens lost a scrappy encounter with Higgins 5-4 last night.
Mark Williams, the new world No1 and world champion, virtually guaranteed his appearance in the semi-finals by defeating Stephen Lee 5-3 in group A. LINKS
Television: Coverage on ITV, 1.30-3.10pm, 11.30pm-12.35am
Copyright (C) The Times, 2000