Published On: Sat, Feb 10th, 2024
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Ronnie O’Sullivan pulls out of Welsh Open with ‘stage fright’ in emotional statement | Other | Sport

Ronnie O’Sullivan has withdrawn from his second successive tournament, announcing he won’t be participating at the Welsh Open this month. The snooker world No. 1 was scheduled to face Liam Graham on Monday, but he has claimed he will be sticking to punditry work in Llandudno.

O’Sullivan entered 2024 in ruthless form, lifting the UK Championship, The Masters and the World Grand Prix titles since the start of December.

The seven-time world champion has lost just three of his 33 matches this season, winning the last 15 on the bounce.

He was last in action against Alfie Burden in a World Open qualifier in Barnsley, following up his 10-7 World Grand Prix triumph over Judd Trump with a 5-3 win.

But O’Sullivan dropped out of the German Masters at the end of January to prioritise his “health and wellbeing”, describing the current campaign as “tiring and challenging”.

And the 48-year-old also won’t be on the snooker table at the Welsh Open after confirming his decision to withdraw just two days before his opener.

In an emotional, honest statement, O’Sullivan opened up on his struggles with anxiety and “stage fright” that have sporadically stifled him throughout his illustrious career.

“Morning, guys. I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided I’m not able to play in Llandudno next week,” O’Sullivan revealed on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday morning.

“It’s hard to explain, but for years, I’ve suffered from stage fright at times, brought on by anxiety. It’s not something I can predict or control, but I try to manage it as best as I can.

“I’m sorry to everyone who’s bought tickets, but I just can’t get my cue out when I feel like this, and I think this is what’s best for me right now.

“I still want to be around the tournament, so I’ll be doing some work with Eurosport, and I hope to see you all there.”

O’Sullivan is a four-time Welsh Open champion, winning it in 2004, 2005, 2014 and 2016, but has gone without the title in his last seven appearances.

The Rocket reached the quarter-finals in last year’s edition before suffering a humiliating 5-0 defeat against China’s Tian Pengfei, who beat four-time world champion John Higgins in the previous round.

Only Higgins has won the Welsh Open more than O’Sullivan, with five triumphs over his four, but he hasn’t been crowned since 2018.

O’Sullivan is next scheduled to face Michael White in the World Open round of 64 on March 19.

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