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O’Sullivan cites Keith Richards inspiration as he eyes another UK Championship

Ronnie O’Sullivan has often struggled to get satisfaction from snooker.

But the Rocket admits it was high praise from Rolling Stones legend and wild man Keith Richards that provided one of his biggest career highlights.

O’Sullivan heads into this year’s UK Championship having ended a seven-year drought at the Crucible and claimed a sixth world title.

That leaves him just one shy of Stephen Hendry’s record, with O’Sullivan already widely hailed as the greatest player in history, and with a chance of a first ever short-listing for the BBC Sports Personality award.

World No2 O’Sullivan, 45 next week, has spent 28 years in the place where goldfish bowl meets pressure cooker as snooker’s box office No1.

The Rocket most recently won the UK Championship in 2018

And a true maverick in the Richards mould has never stopped – through controversial outbursts, personal challenges and clashes with authority – combining winning with entertainment.

O’Sullivan, who begins his UK bid on Wednesday against Leo Fernandez, said: “I love bringing joy to people, playing well, having a good day. Maybe there are people, from other sports or industries, who come to watch you.

“There might be an actor or an artist or a football player who are the best at what they do, and they come and see what you do. And you can see it if they are like ‘Wow’ watching you perform, that is a huge buzz.

O’Sullivan clinched a sixth world title in August

“Keith Richards came and saw me play one day. And he said ‘It’s like watching Mozart’. This is a musician in one of the greatest bands comparing me with a great composer. That felt like the biggest compliment.”

The crowds are on hold for now, and like every tournament so far this season the UK will be staged at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes where a hotel on site makes the many coronavirus protocols easier to follow.

O’Sullivan admits he is “devastated” the tournament had to be moved from York and has compared the current “Groundhog Day” experience in a single venue to being in prison.

O’Sullivan was compared to Mozart by Rolling Stones icon Richards

But he is sustained by the summer’s first World Championship win since 2013.

O’Sullivan, an analyst for Eurosport , said: “I had started to wonder if I would ever win another one. For the previous five or six years I hadn’t put my heart and soul into it.

“In mathematical terms, of course it looks closer to the seven now, but I am genuinely happy with what I have won. I am not a greedy person.

O’Sullivan has won the UK Championship a record seven times

“For the majors I have the records for the UK and Masters with seven, and the overall record for all three with 20 – so three out of four isn’t bad!

“I have some great memories from the UK. Winning it two years ago to get past Stephen Hendry’s record of 18 majors was memorable – there are only three, so that is a yardstick.

“And the first win there, my debut ranking title as a 17-year-old – that will always stand out as special.”

Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from today until December 6.




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