sport

O'Sullivan set for announcement

Ronnie O'Sullivan will make a major announcement concerning his future in snooker on Tuesday.

The reigning world champion has played only one competitive match this season, choosing to take a break from the sport and consider his next career move.

He has until the end of February to decide whether to defend his Crucible title, with the entry list closing, and the 37-year-old is expected to say whether he will be returning to action in Sheffield when he appears at a press conference in London.

Organisers of the press conference said O'Sullivan will "make a statement regarding his future career plans".

O'Sullivan wrote to World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn in November to say he would be skipping the remainder of the season.

There has been speculation he has had a change of plan, and is ready to make an audacious defence of the World Championship title with barely any match practice.

O'Sullivan was hesitant in signing up for this season, due to differences of opinion with World Snooker over the demands on players. He was the final player to sign a contract to compete.

His management cited personal problems for O'Sullivan deciding to step away from the sport in the autumn, and he has been eager to strike the right balance between a career and family life, which is complicated by the increasing amount of travel on the expanding snooker tour, and the ranking points system which rewards playing regularly.

Last year O'Sullivan also suffered badly with glandular fever but put that behind him at the World Championship to brilliantly land his fourth title in the sport's most prestigious tournament, beating Ali Carter in the final.

O'Sullivan will make his announcement at noon on Tuesday.

Ken Doherty, the 1997 world champion, would welcome the return of O'Sullivan, widely considered the most naturally talented player in the sport, and by some margin its biggest star at the box office.

Reacting to initial news of the press conference, Doherty wrote on Twitter: "Looks like he's coming back??

"He must miss it, the buzz, the atmosphere, excitement???

"Game will always survive, it is and always has been bigger than anyone [sic] person, love to see him come back tho."

O'Sullivan has played exhibition events in recent months, so would not be coming back entirely cold.

There have also been reports he has taken to farm labouring to keep himself occupied, and that he has got engaged to actress Laila Rouass.

Jimmy White, his good friend and fellow crowd favourite, wrote on Twitter yesterday that he was not aware of any plans O'Sullivan had to return to action.

White wrote: "Last time I spoke to Ronnie he wasn't going to play. I'd love him too but he has big plans away from snooker."