RONNIE O’SULLIVAN believes he wasted nine years of his career because he partied too hard and was not mentally ready to win trophies.
Many snooker fans consider the Rocket — a six-time world champ — the sport’s greatest-ever player.
Yet there are well-documented points where he has struggled with depression, alcohol and drug abuse.
Despite his numerous records, currently chasing Stephen Hendry’s tally of seven world titles, O’Sullivan feels he could have done better.
Asked by Eurosport presenter Andy Goldstein for his “biggest regret in snooker”, O’Sullivan replied: “Maybe between 1995 and 2000 when I don’t think I properly dedicated my time to snooker. Perhaps I lost a bit of time there.
“And again between 2005 and 2007 I don’t think I won a ranking tournament for 32 months. And again 2009 to 2011.
“So perhaps I’ve had nine years from a 27-year playing career where I mentally wasn’t ready.”
A 17-year-old O’Sullivan broke through to win the 1993 UK Championship and then the 1995 Masters.
Yet he had to wait several years before lifting a first world title in 2001 — at his ninth attempt.
Asked why the wait was so long, he said: “I was partying quite a lot.
“The snooker season was September to May and the World Champs was the last tournament of the year.
So perhaps I’ve had nine years from a 27-year playing career where I mentally wasn’t ready.
“If I had a bad session I felt the sooner this is over, the sooner I can have some fun with my friends.
“When it came off, it was the most unbelievable feeling.
“If you win it once, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win it again because you’ve got your name on the trophy.
“The monkey off your back is huge, it allows you to go and play and then it’s just a case of clocking up as many titles as you can get.”
O’Sullivan, 44, also discussed his career highs and lows with Eurosport to record a new snooker “vodcast” series.
He says his three favourite successes were the 2012 and 2013 world crowns and the 2014 Masters.
O’Sullivan, who has used only four or five cues at pro level, added his best match was the 2003 European Open triumph over Hendry.
He added: “We were both playing really well, I beat him 9-6 and I beat the highest break three times.
“I had four or five centuries. He had three or four. It was one-visit snooker through the whole match.”
O’Sullivan admits there were “three 146s which could have been maximums” mainly because he was unhappy at the lowly prize money available for a 147 clearance.
Of his 15 maximums, the most famous was the 1997 Worlds against Mick Price in a record 5min 8sec.
O’Sullivan said: “I was a lot younger and a lot faster then. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do that now but I guess it’s one of those fantastic moments in snooker.”
Ronnie says he was having “a lot of problems with his family” when he quit at 4-1 down against Hendry in the 2006 UK Championship quarter-finals.
O’Sullivan was fined more than £20,000 but said: “I had to go, I wasn’t in the right mind at all.
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“Even a few matches before that, I wanted to shake the guy’s hand and walk out. There was a lot of stuff going on in my head that was upsetting really.
“I thought I’m not going to win this match, I’m not feeling it and don’t want to be here, so I shook his hand and off I went. There are times I haven’t enjoyed the snooker, but I’d never do that again.”
One of the funniest incidents was when snooker’s first streaker interrupted the 1997 Masters final.
O’Sullivan laughed: “It was quite bizarre, I was sitting opposite her and saw her taking her clothes and thinking what she’s doing there?
“Then she ran down and did a couple laps of the table. I think she was waiting for someone to come and grab her, but no one would. So I think she felt a bit silly. But it was very funny.”