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  Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Putting Ronnie in context
Ronnie O'Sullivan has said he is 'not bothered' about this year's World Championship
Ronnie's outlook changed when his father was jailed

Ronnie O'Sullivan's semi-final clash against Stephen Hendry was already being billed as snooker's clash of the titans.

But the Crucible contest has taken on an extra significance following O'Sullivan's scathing criticism of his opponent.

The Chigwell player admitted on Wednesday that he had a lack of respect for Hendry following a miss-rule misunderstanding at the 1999 World Championship.

He also launched an astonishing attack on the Scotsman's manager Ian Doyle and the players under his wing.


He's changed in temperament in the last few years - the turning point was his father being sentenced to life imprisonment
Clive Everton

So what brought on the shocking assault?

Daily Telegraph writer John Dee told BBC Sport Online that O'Sullivan's character has changed over the past couple of years.

"As a player Ronnie is probably the most exciting in the sport today," said Dee.

"In press conferences he can blow hot and cold and say funny things. What he said after his match against Lee was a little bit unusual.

"I've known him go for players in the past but not quite in that context.

"I think something has been simmering in his mind since that 1999 semi-final. I don't think it was anything he made up on the spur of the moment."

Stephen Hendry has won more titles than anyone at The Crucible
Respected: Hendry is a seven-times world champ

O'Sullivan turned professional back in 1992 and was seen as the brightest prospect in the game.

He has won 11 ranking tournaments to date, capturing his first major title, the UK Championship, a year after turning professional.

But his career to date has been dogged by controversy.

BBC Sport's snooker commentator Clive Everton has followed the Rocket's progress for many years and believes that one incident in his life has affected him more than any other.

"I've been watching Ronnie's progress since he was a junior prodigy," said Everton.

"His first century came when he was 10 and his first maximum in competition was at the age of 15. He's the most naturally gifted player that I've ever seen."

"He's changed in temperament in the last few years. In fact, the jumping off point from that was his father being sentenced to life imprisonment.


I'm in such a funny mood at the moment
Ronnie O'Sullivan

"An unpleasant fact that we can't get around. I think that is the route cause to Ronnie becoming a manic depressive.

"This has led him to the heights of achievement and some pretty awful lows."

The problem with O'Sullivan now is that appears to have hit a low, after making his derogatory comments towards Hendry and Doyle.

But perhaps the most worrying factor for O'Sullivan is when he told BBC Sport Online after the Lee match that he was not bothered about winning the title.

"I'm in such a funny mood at the moment," he said.

"I don't care if I win or lose. I don't give a monkey's. It's only a game. I don't need the money. I'm good for money."

It remains unclear which O'Sullivan the public will see, what is certain is that he has fired up a contest that already promised to be explosive.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan
"It would be satisfying to send him home early"

Embassy final

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