Ronnie O'Sullivan reveals the reason behind much-anticipated Masters return

Ronnie O’Sullivan is back at the Masters this year after skipping the 2020 event, feeling that decision cost him his form and rhythm at the start of last year.

The Rocket disappointed his fans by sitting out last year’s Masters and choosing to work as a pundit for Eurosport during the event instead.

Pulling out allowed Ali Carter to step in and the Captain made it all the way to the final, where he was beaten by Stuart Bingham at Alexandra Palace.

O’Sullivan had suggested that he would sit out the Masters again this year, having complained about dealing with the crowds, the media obligations and pressure to sort out tickets for people.

However, he is back and will take on Ding Junhui on 13 January at the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes, when he will look to win his first tournament since lifting the World Championship title in August.

The 45-year-old feels that missing the Masters, along with the Christmas break and not travelling to Europe at the start of 2020 really cost him in terms of form, and he is eager not to make the same mistake again.

‘I don’t know because I didn’t miss it last year,’ O’Sullivan told of his decision to return to the Masters.

‘I just think, I was playing well towards the end of last year and I probably would have done okay at the Masters if I’d have played.

‘Then I missed that and I was looking forward to playing but I missed the German [Masters], I missed the Austrian Open [European Masters] so I ended up not playing for six or seven weeks.

‘Then when I did come back I was still playing well but I was so off the pace that it took me two tournaments to feel like a player again and get back where I was in December.

‘So I thought, rather than that happen again, let’s just try and carry some momentum forward and now I’ve got four or five tournaments to play before the World Championships so that’s enough for me.’

O’Sullivan made no secret of the fact that he preferred the World Championship in 2020 with no crowd at the Crucible for the majority of the tournament, due to the added stress of dealing with fans at events.

He also claims this has been a big problem for him at the Masters in the past.

‘For this year’s [2020] World Championships, there was no visitors, no guests, no one at the stage door, I could get in and out of Sheffield and I’ve never felt so relaxed there in my life,’ O’Sullivan told Pete Cohen’s Mi365 Podcast. ‘It wasn’t snooker, it was the stuff that surrounds certain tournaments. That was the reason I didn’t play in the Masters, because it’s a huge circus there.

‘London, the Masters is a no-no for me, if I never played in that again I wouldn’t be disappointed.’

O’Sullivan still appreciates the simplicity of a tournament at which he only needs to play snooker and do little else, but the months without fans at events appears to have changed his tune.

The world champion has played in more than enough behind closed doors events and is looking forward to the return of crowds as soon as possible.

‘It allows me to just go there and play snooker, enjoy it, it simplifies it I guess,’ he explained. ‘The Masters, the UK Championships, the World Championships, a lot of people want to come watch, you end up having to deal with stuff you don’t want to deal with. So this makes it all easier.

‘But I think it would have been nice to have a crowd, I think we need a crowd.

‘Some players have really adapted to it well, but I think it’s nice to play in front of an audience, it’s been a while now so looking forward to at some point getting a crowd back in.’

O’Sullivan not only wants a crowd for the return of an atmosphere at events and the excitement that brings, but he feels it will help his performances.

The Rocket won his sixth world title last summer in impressive fashion, but he is yet to get his hands on another trophy since then.

He has impressed at times, reaching two finals, but also turned in some below-par performances at the Marshall Arena, where tournaments have been held this season.

The world number three has spoken before about how the fear of failure has driven him on to succeed, something he doesn’t really feel at this stage of his career.

With that motivation disappearing, and without the intensity of a crowd, he feels his game has suffered.

‘I obviously have a lot less to prove, I don’t have anything to prove,’ Ronnie explained. ‘But I think with that loss of fear, I’ve always said that fear drove me on to want to play well and to put the extra hours in, to devote myself to snooker.

‘When you do that you get such tunnel vision and for the last five years I haven’t had that approach.

‘It’s worked for me, in a way, I’ve been much more relaxed, but I think you get to the point where maybe that intensity isn’t there enough of the time.

‘I don’t know if it’s lack of crowds but I just feel like I’m missing the odd ball I wasn’t missing before. Against 95% of the tour I might get away with it, but the three guys: Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Mark Selby, I’m just not going to get away with it against them.

‘Against all the other guys I will and have got away with it but If I’m to compete with them three then I’ve got to erase them errors.

‘Maybe crowds coming back might change that I don’t know. It is harder for certain players to play in front of no crowd, sometimes you need that bit of pressure to kick you into gear.’

Watch the Masters live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from Jan 10-17.

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