O’Sullivan To Defend World Title

So it’s official, four-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will defend his world title at the Crucible Theatre, this April, having announced his return to competitive snooker today (as well as a new sponsor), at a press conference in London…

Citing both the need to get back into a routine, as well as the upcoming changes to the ranking system, which will undoubtedly benefit players in his position, insofar as he will not need to play every week in order to avoid having to qualify for events, it is good news for both his fans, and indeed the game as a whole.

How will he fare after a year out? Time will tell, but personally I expect him to be up to speed relatively quickly, indeed John Higgins won two of his first three tournaments following his six-month ban in 2010 and went on to win the world title himself later that season.

With a number of players looking ‘burned out’ at last season’s tournament, Ronnie will certainly be the freshest at this year’s event and if he comes through his opening match and settles into the tournament, could be hard to shift. On the other side of the coin however, he will of course be less ‘match sharp’ than anyone else in the tournament and not as used to the conditions of the table under the television lights, which differ significantly to those in the club.

Of course, what Ronnie’s return means is that as he will be the number one seed, as the defending champion, despite currently being ranked outside of the world’s top 16, whoever is ranked 16th after the China Open, will have to qualify for the tournament instead. This last happened back in 2006, when 16th ranked Ian McCulloch was forced to qualify, following Shaun Murphy’s Crucible triumph a year earlier.

At present, the unlucky man looks to be Mark Davis, currently 16th on my latest projected seedings list, although with points to play for in both the PTC Grand Finals and China Open, he can still do something about that. I will of course post all of the different permutations closer to the time.