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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Tale of two Ronnies
BBC Sport Online examines the colourful, and equally controversial, career of Ronnie 'The Rocket' O'Sullivan.
If George Best ever transferred his football career onto a snooker table, the chances are he would be Ronnie O'Sullivan.
The 25-year-old is regarded as one of the most naturally talented players to have held a cue.
But he is a temperamental character whose moods until now had seen him miss out on snooker's biggest prize in his nine years as a professional.
Fellow player Peter Ebdon dubbed O'Sullivan a genius, snooker's answer to Mozart, because of his unrivalled potting skill.
But like Mozart, O'Sullivan has a dark side too.
Perhaps it is understandable given the hand dealt to him by fate's nasty little wheel over the past 25 years.
His career has been littered with controversies and "off-the-field" incidents that have earned him the unenviable comparisons with Best.
His acrimony with the media is not helped with his father serving a life prison sentence for murder in 1992.
And his exploits since then have not helped dispel his seemingly "bad-boy" reputation, including his repeated threats to quit the game altogether.
In 1998, he hit the headlines when he was stripped of his Irish Masters title when he tested positive for cannabis - and was then forced to forfeit his £61,000 in prize money.
Last year he joined the ranks of supermodel Kate Moss, Paul Gascoigne and Stan Collymore, when he admitted himself as a high profile patient at the famous Priory clinic in London.
He was treated for drug-related problems and bouts of depression - but made a triumphant return to the snooker arena with victory in the Champions Cup.
"I've been through a lot in the last few months but now I have my life in order now."
This year's World Championship final saw him blow cold as well as hot but ultimately he found enough electric skill and reserves of control to clinch the elusive Crucible title.
As always with the Rocketman, the outcome was not so much about the performance of his opponent John Higgins, but about his ability to master his personal demons.
For success at this level should have come so much earlier for the gifted one from Chigwell.
O'Sullivan made his first century break at the age of 10 and won his first pro-am tournament at the age of 12.
At 15, he became the youngest player to compile a 147 break and won the World Under-21 title.
Nicknamed the Essex Exocet, he turned professional in 1992 - just a month after his 16th birthday.
Then at 17 he became the youngest winner of a world ranking tournament when he captured the 1993 UK Championship after defeating Stephen Hendry.
His professional career began in the most spectacular manner when he won his first 38 matches - a record that still stands proudly today.
At the age of 18 he became the youngest player to win a ranking event with victory in the UK Championships in 1993.
The British Open followed four months later.
Things couldn't get any better. They did.
Lack of respect
He added the prestigious Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley in 1995 to his fast-growing portfolio.
But the first of his infamous brushes with officialdom came at the Crucible at the Embassy World Championship in 1996.
Alain Robidoux accused him of showing disrespect when he played left-handed on his way to a 10-3 victory in the first round of the tournament.
The Canadian refused to shake hands after the match prompting an emphatic, and predictably, controversial response from O'Sullivan.
"I'm better left-handed than he is right-handed," he said, claiming he showed Robidoux no respect because "he didn't deserve any".
O'Sullivan was summoned in front of a WPBSA disciplinary committee after he assaulted an official during that year's World Championship.
On the verge of becoming the first player to be thrown out of the tournament, he was handed a reprieve with a two-year suspended ban and fine of £20,000.
He left his indelible imprint on the Crucible when he scored the fastest 147 in snooker history.
It took him only five minutes and 20 seconds to achieve the astonishing feat against Mick Price in the first round of the World Championships in 1997.
But Sheffield was the scene when he was sensationally beaten 10-9 by 21-year-old David Gray, a result that sparked a five-week stay at the Priory in the summer.
His triumph on Monday would seem to prove snooker's demonic genius is finally cured of his Crucible curse.
But it remains to be seen if the victory will see The Rocket go on to take his rightful place among the other stars in the snooker stratosphere.
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