‘You don’t see Nadal and Federer having to qualify’: Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he’d rather skip events than have to play preliminaries

Five-time world champion says he prefers participating in elite invitational events like the Hong Kong Masters over tournaments that require him to qualify

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 11:56am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 9:45pm

World number 14 Ronnie O’Sullivan insists he would rather skip a tournament than have to go through preliminary qualifying rounds to enter.

The maverick Englishman made the claim after his 6-3 defeat against Australia’s Neil Robertson in the final of the Hong Kong Masters on Sunday night.

O’Sullivan, who has clashed frequently with the sport’s governing body World Snooker and its chairman Barry Hearn, said that any event he’s required to qualify for is not worth him competing in.

“If I need to qualify for a tournament, then it must be the wrong tournament for me to play in,” said the five-time world champion. “You don’t see Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal or Tiger Woods having to qualify for tournaments. I think I’ll skip them tournaments.

“If you want to put a tournament like [the Hong Kong Masters] on, then I’ll come. Otherwise, I’ll stay at home and I’ll just enjoy my life, and I’ll just play in some other events. Because I don’t like qualifying. I don’t think top players should do that.”

The 41-year-old, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, took a sabbatical from the sport in 2013 and spent his free time working on a pig farm and in recent years has cut back on the number of events he competes in.

“A tournament like this with just the top players, the crowds will come out,” said O’Sullivan. “For me, I love to play in events like this.

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“I don’t want to be going to Barnsley and qualifying in some leisure centre. That is for amateurs. We’re top class professionals and we should be playing in venues like this all the time otherwise something’s not quite right.”

The “Rocket”, who hit a sublime break of 143 in the final of the Hong Kong Masters, the highest break of the competition, insisted he still loves the sport and was looking forward to a successful season.

“I’ve always loved the sport and I always will love the sport. Everybody has good days and bad days. Having played in a great event like this this week, you feel on top of the world, and I’m looking forward to playing.”

The Essex-native’s latest brush with the sport’s authorities came in April of this year when he accused World Snooker of bullying and intimidation after receiving a written warning from the governing body for swearing at a photographer and criticising a match referee at the Masters.

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Chairman Hearn said his eccentric behaviour had become “embarrassing”.

O’Sullivan hit back in an interview claiming: “I’ve given 25 years of service to this game and I think I’ve given enough. Drop me out, I don’t need you, you probably don’t need me. ... I like Barry but I’m not being intimidated or bullied any more.”