sport

O'Sullivan set to reveal plans

Ronnie O'Sullivan will reveal his future plans on Tuesday - and one of his former coaches is hoping he will 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 despite his slim appearance record this season, he remains the sport's biggest draw and will give a press conference on Tuesday to outline his plans.

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.

No-one has been able to give an accurate reading of what O'Sullivan will say - although 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," Hill said.

"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.

That victory was the long-awaited fulfilment of his potential, with the Essex potter having established himself as the game's trailblazer many years before.

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 April 20.

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 the moment I have been doing some coaching with Mark Selby, he came here for spell, and I can still say I have never seen anyone like Ronnie.

"The rest of them, Mark included, have got to be happy if Ronnie is not there. People say Judd Trump is the new Ronnie, but he is nowhere near him. He can pot balls, but he's not Ronnie."

O'Sullivan called the press conference through his new management company, appointed to take care of his career away from playing, giving a nod to the possibility that his announcement could be about his long-term future.

It is understood he will talk about snooker, though, and, despite being ranked outside of the top 16 at present, would command top-seed status at the worlds if he chooses to enter.

"At 37 why would he want to pack it in?" Hill added. "He's been saying it since he was 17. He said it to me when he lost to Mark King at the UK Championship years ago."