Sport country: England
Highest ranking: ¹ 1
Highest break: 147 (13 times)
Career winnings: £8 432 884
Nickname: The Rocket,
The Essex Exocet,
The Magician, Mr. 147
Tournament wins: 60
World Champion: 5 (2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013)
Ronald Antonio O'Sullivan, OBE (born 5 December 1975) is an English professional snooker player, and one of the most successful players in the sport's modern era. Regarded by many commentators as the most naturally gifted player in snooker history, and frequently described as a genius, he is also noted for his mercurial temperament and for his ambivalent relationship with the sport, from which he has taken prolonged sabbaticals and repeatedly threatened to retire.
A childhood snooker prodigy, O'Sullivan made his first century break at age 10 and his first maximum break at age 15. He turned professional in 1992, at the age of 16, and soon earned the nickname "The Rocket" because of his rapid playing style. He achieved his first major professional success when he won the 1993 UK Championship at the age of 17 years and 358 days, making him the youngest player ever to win a ranking title, a record he still holds. He is also the youngest player to have won the Masters, having captured his first title in 1995 at the age of 19 years and 69 days.
His record in Triple Crown events now stands at five World Championship, six Masters, and five UK Championship titles. His career total of 28 ranking titles puts him in joint second place (with Steve Davis and John Higgins) behind Stephen Hendry, who has 36, and his career earnings of over £8 million put him on second place after Hendry on snooker's all-time prize-money list. O'Sullivan has held the world number one ranking on multiple occasions, most recently during the 2009/2010 season. His other achievements include ten Premier League titles and winning the Nations Cup with England in 2000.
Known as a prolific break-builder, O'Sullivan holds the record for the most competitive century breaks, with 819. He also holds the record for the most ratified maximum breaks in professional competition (13) and for the three fastest competitive maximum breaks, the quickest in 5 minutes and 20 seconds.
O'Sullivan's achievements in snooker began at an early age. He made his first century break (117) at the age of 10, completed his first total clearance (142) at age 12, and became British Under-16 Champion at age 13. He made his television debut in The Thames Snooker Classic when he was 14, with Steve Davis commentating on the match. He compiled his first maximum break in the final of the 1991 British Amateur Championships at age 15, and won the IBSF World Under-21 Championship in the same year. He turned professional in 1992, aged 16.
O'Sullivan began the 1992/1993 season by winning 74 of his first 76 professional matches, including a winning streak of 38 successive victories, a record that still stands. At the qualifying stage of the Grand Prix he defeated Jason Curtis 5–0 in a time of 43 minutes 36 seconds, setting the current record for the fastest best-of-9-frame match. After this Alan Hughes gave him the nickname "The Rocket". In September 1992, at the age of 16, he became the youngest player ever to qualify for the World Championship. He made his Crucible debut on 18 April 1993 at the age of 17 years and 134 days, and he is still the third-youngest player ever to compete at the venue behind Luca Brecel and Stephen Hendry. He lost 7–10 to Alan McManus in the first round. O'Sullivan was named the WPBSA's Young Player of the Year for 1993.
In the 1993/1994 season O'Sullivan defeated Hendry 10–6 in the final of the UK Championship to win his first ranking title. At the age of 17 years and 358 days he became the youngest ever winner of a professional ranking tournament. He faced Hendry again in the final of the European Open, but lost 5–9. He won his second ranking title at the British Open by defeating James Wattana 9–4 in the final. He reached the second round of the World Championship but lost 3–13 against John Parrott. Having started the season ranked number 57 in the world, he ended it ranked number 9, and was named the WPBSA's Player of the Year for 1994.
O'Sullivan did not win any ranking titles during the 1994/1995 season, but turned in consistently strong performances, reaching the quarter-finals of the Grand Prix, the UK Championship, and the Welsh Open; the semi-finals of the Dubai Classic, and the European Open; and the finals of the Thailand Open, and the British Open. He captured his first Masters title by defeating John Higgins 9–3 in the final, becoming the youngest player ever to win the tournament at the age of 19 years and 69 days. He also reached his first World Championship quarter-final, but lost 8–13 to Hendry. By the end of his third season as a professional O'Sullivan was ranked number 3 in the world behind Hendry and Davis.
In the 1995/1996 season O'Sullivan reached the quarter-finals of the UK Championship but lost 7–9 to Andy Hicks. He reached the final of the Masters but lost 5–10 to Hendry. He reached his first World Championship semi-final but lost 14–16 to Peter Ebdon. Snooker's governing body found O'Sullivan guilty of physically assaulting Mike Ganley, a media official, during the event. For this he received a two-year suspended ban, a £20,000 fine, and was advised to donate £10,000 to charity.
In the 1996/1997 season O'Sullivan won two ranking titles, the Asian Classic by defeating Brian Morgan 9–8 in the final, and the German Open by defeating Alain Robidoux 9–7 in the final. In February 1997, he reached his third consecutive Masters final, where he faced Davis. After O'Sullivan took the first two frames with back-to-back century breaks of 116 and 113, the third frame was disrupted by snooker's first ever streaker, Lianne Crofts. Davis later stated that the streaking incident affected O'Sullivan's concentration and momentum, allowing him back into the match. The afternoon session ended all-square at 4–4. O'Sullivan began the evening session by winning four frames in 49 minutes to take an 8–4 lead, but Davis fought back to win the next six frames and clinch the title with a 10–8 victory. On 21 April 1997, while playing Mick Price in the first round of the World Championship, O'Sullivan made the fastest ever competitive maximum break in 5 minutes and 20 seconds, an average of one shot every 8.8 seconds. This was also O'Sullivan's first maximum break in professional competition. He exited the World Championship in the second round, losing 12–13 against Darren Morgan.
In the 1997/1998 season O'Sullivan won his second UK Championship title by defeating Hendry 10–6 in the final. In February he reached the quarter-final of the Masters, but lost 3–6 to Davis. Later that month he won the Scottish Open by defeating John Higgins 9–5 in the final. The following month he defeated Ken Doherty in the final of the Irish Masters, but was disqualified after a post-match drug test found cannabis in his system. The title was subsequently awarded to Doherty. O'Sullivan reached a second World Championship semi-final, but lost 9–17 against Higgins.
In the 1998/1999 season O'Sullivan did not defend his UK Championship title. He withdrew from the tournament shortly before his scheduled first-round match, with his manager stating that he was suffering from physical and nervous exhaustion and that doctors had ordered him to rest. Other reports stated that O'Sullivan was suffering from depression. He reached the quarter-finals of the Masters, but lost 2–6 to Doherty. At the World Championship, he reached his third semi-final in four years, but was again denied a place in the final when he lost 13–17 to Hendry. During the match, the players made a total of eight century breaks, four from Hendry and four from O'Sullivan. When Hendry made back-to-back centuries of 101 and 108 in the 21st and 22nd frames, O'Sullivan responded with 134 in the 23rd frame, narrowly missing out on a maximum break when he missed the pink into the middle pocket. O'Sullivan went on to make a 110 break in the 24th frame, the fourth consecutive frame won with a century.
In the 1999/2000 season O'Sullivan won two ranking tournaments, the China Open, where he defeated Stephen Lee 9–2 in the final, and the Scottish Open, where he defeated Mark Williams 9–1 in the final. For the third year in succession he was eliminated from the Masters at the quarter-final stage, losing 3–6 to Parrott. At the World Championship O'Sullivan was eliminated in the first round, losing 9–10 to David Gray, despite becoming the first player to compile five century breaks in a best-of-19-frame match.
During the 2000/2001 season O'Sullivan won six tournaments, and reached the final of one further event. He won the Champions Cup by defeating Mark Williams 7–5 in the final, and reached the final of the Grand Prix, but lost the final 5–9 against Williams. He successfully defended his China Open title by defeating Williams 9–3 in the final. He won the Irish Masters defeating Stephen Hendry 9–8 in the final, and went on to claim his first World Championship title with an 18–14 victory over John Higgins. O'Sullivan dedicated this win to his father. He ended the season by winning the Premier League. After finishing second in the league stage, he defeated Higgins 6–3 in the semi-finals, and Hendry 9–7 in the final.
In the 2001/2002 season, O'Sullivan won his third UK title, with a 10–1 victory over Doherty. At the 2002 World Championship, before meeting Hendry in the semi-finals, O'Sullivan said during a pre-match interview: "I know if I do get beat and he comes up and does a moonie in front of me and goes 'Ne ne ne', I'll just look at him and say 'well done' and say 'go back to your sad little life'.", referring to a previous match against Hendry in 1999. In the match, O'Sullivan opened up an 8–5 overnight lead, but Hendry rallied on the second day to level at 12–12 before the final session. Hendry subsequently outplayed O'Sullivan, and won by 17 frames to 13. After the match, O'Sullivan accused Hendry of poor sportsmanship, referring to his conduct over a "miss" shot at an unnamed prior tournament. Hendry did not comment on his opponent's outbursts, but O'Sullivan did receive criticism for his remarks from Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor and Clive Everton, and he later apologised to Hendry for his comments. O'Sullivan ended the season by defending his Premier League title. Having finished first after the league stage, O'Sullivan defeated Jimmy White 6–2 in the semi-final, and John Higgins 9–4 in the final. He began the 2002/2003 season ranked number 1.
O'Sullivan had another successful season in 2002/2003, reaching the last 16 in seven ranking tournaments. He began the season by winning the invitational Scottish Masters, defeating John Higgins 9–4 in the final. He reached the quarter-finals of the LG Cup, losing against eventual champion Chris Small; the last 16 of the British Open, losing against Paul Hunter, the quarter-finals of the UK Championship, losing against Drew Henry; and the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, losing against Marco Fu. After this O'Sullivan won back-to-back ranking titles, defeating Hendry in the final of the European Open, and Higgins in the final of the Irish Masters. He reached the last 16 of the Scottish Open, before losing against Ken Doherty. His only first-round ranking event defeat of the season came at the World Championship, when he lost 6–10 in the first round against the unseeded Marco Fu, despite making a maximum break in the match. This defeat saw him drop to number 3 in the rankings. He participated at the Premier League, but despite topping the table after the league stage, he lost 4–6 in the semi-final against Fu.
In the 2003/2004 season, O'Sullivan reached three ranking-event finals. He reached the final of the British Open, but lost 6–9 against Stephen Hendry. He won the Welsh Open by defeating Steve Davis 9–8. He reached the final of the Masters, but lost 9–10 against Paul Hunter, despite having led 6–1 and then 9–7. In 2004, O'Sullivan's father telephoned six-time World Champion Ray Reardon, and asked if he could give O'Sullivan some advice. With Reardon's help O'Sullivan recovered his form, and won the 2004 World Championship. He defeated Hendry 17–4 in the semi–finals, the most one-sided defeat ever in a World Championship semi–final. He then defeated Graeme Dott 18–8 in the final, despite losing the first five frames. O'Sullivan blamed his poor start on "mind games" by Dott's coach Derek Hill, who visited O'Sullivan's dressing room just before the match. O'Sullivan was ranked number one for the next two seasons.
O'Sullivan began the 2004/2005 season by winning the Grand Prix, defeating Ian McCulloch 9–5 in the final. He then reached the semi-finals of the British Open, losing 1–6 to Stephen Maguire, and the last 32 of the UK Championship, losing 6–9, once again against Maguire. In 2005, O'Sullivan defended his Welsh Open title, by defeating Stephen Hendry 9–8. During the tournament, O'Sullivan compiled ten century breaks, including a break of 146, the highest of the tournament. After this, he won his second Masters title, by defeating John Higgins 10–3. After the final, Higgins described O'Sullivan as a "total genius".
O'Sullivan then won his third Irish Masters title, by defeating Matthew Stevens 10–8. He then missed the China Open on medical grounds; for which he was criticised by Anthony Hamilton, who said that O'Sullivan has a duty to promote the sport overseas. In the World Championship, O'Sullivan lost to Peter Ebdon in the quarter-final. From 2–8 down, Ebdon began a comeback and eventually won 13–11, by playing in an exceptionally determined and dogged style, with many observers accusing him of deliberate slow play to disrupt O'Sullivan's fast game. After the match, O'Sullivan indicated to the press that he was unlikely to compete in the following season, and would perhaps even retire from the sport altogether. O'Sullivan participated in the Premier League. After finishing third in the table after the league stage, O'Sullivan defeated Hendry 5–0 in the semi-finals, and Williams 6–0 in the final. In September 2005, he announced that he would play a truncated 2005/2006 season, spending some time playing eight-ball pool in the United States, having been chosen to compete on the elite International Pool Tour.
O'Sullivan began the 2005/2006 season at the Grand Prix, and reached the final, but lost 2–9 against John Higgins. In his last 32 match with Mark King at the UK Championship, O'Sullivan sat with a wet towel draped over his head for most of the contest, and lost 8–9. He then successfully defended his Premier League title. Having finished first in the league stage, he defeated Steve Davis 5–3 in the semi-finals, and Stephen Hendry 6–0 in the final. O'Sullivan then reached the final of the Masters, but lost 9–10 against Higgins. O'Sullivan skipped the Malta Cup, and then lost his opening matches at the next two ranking events, as he lost 1–5 against Ian McCulloch at the Welsh Open and 0–5 against James Wattana at the China Open.
The 2006 World Championship began with O'Sullivan defeating Dave Harold 10–4, followed by a struggle through to a 13–10 win in his second-round match against Welshman Ryan Day. A similar quarter-final match ensued against Mark Williams. O'Sullivan led 10–6 going into the final session. A fightback from Williams saw him take the lead by winning the next five frames; but O'Sullivan held his nerve to take the match 13–11, and faced Graeme Dott in the semi–finals. Dott took an early lead before O'Sullivan drew level at 8–8 at the end of the second session. Cue-tip problems, which had dogged O'Sullivan throughout the event, recurred, including an incident in which television footage appeared to show O'Sullivan deliberately removing the tip of his cue. This secured him a 15-minute break to re-tip the cue, before he returned and made a 124 break. Tournament Director Mike Ganley accepted the player's assurance that the tip had simply fallen off, and no censure was made. The incident drew criticism from his opponent, and from Steve Davis and John Parrott. Dott then took all eight frames of the third session, leaving himself one frame away from his second final in three years. The final session saw O'Sullivan stage a minor fightback, taking three frames in a row, before a mistake let Dott back in for an eventual clearance on the black. After Dott's win, O'Sullivan gave his cue and case to a boy in the crowd. BBC claims he had used as many as 21 different tips during the fortnight; O'Sullivan later stated that he had used seven tips before arriving in Sheffield, and a further eight during the week, and that he would return next season with a new cue. O'Sullivan's decision not to enter the Malta Cup cost him the number-one rank for the following season.
On his way to the final of the Northern Ireland Trophy, which he lost 6–9 to Ding Junhui, he defeated semi–final opponent Dominic Dale 6–0, in only 53 minutes – a record for a best of 11 frame match. O'Sullivan then reached the quarter-finals of the Grand Prix, but lost 1–5 against eventual champion Neil Robertson. In December 2006, in his quarter-final match of the UK Championship against Hendry, O'Sullivan conceded in dramatic fashion part-way into the sixth frame of the best of 17 match. He had gone 0–4 down after a strong start from Hendry, before finally taking a frame back. At the beginning of the sixth frame, O'Sullivan opened with a break of 24, before leaving himself a difficult shot from black to red. After missing the red, he calmly shook the hand of both Hendry (saying to him that he "had enough of it, mate") and the match referee, Jan Verhaas, and walked out of the arena, stunning everyone present. The incident caused minor disruption to the other quarter-final match, between Graeme Dott and Steve Davis, being played simultaneously in the same arena. Dott later said that he initially thought that O'Sullivan and Hendry were having a fight when he heard an audience member shout "Get a grip, Ronnie." It was later officially confirmed that O'Sullivan had forfeited the match, which was awarded 9–1 to Hendry. O’Sullivan issued a statement later that day, apologising and saying that he would be "back on his feet fighting stronger and harder than ever very soon." On 31 May 2007, World Snooker fined him a total of £20,800 over this incident, and docked him 900 ranking points.
O'Sullivan returned to action at the Masters, to a mixed response from the audience (being both booed and clapped). He won his first round match 6–1 on 16 January 2007, against Ali Carter, making two century breaks in the process. However, he then created more controversy by failing to attend a post-match press conference. He did record a short interview with Steve Davis for the BBC, stating that he was much happier than at the UK Championship, and that he was playing well once again. Sir Rodney Walker later issued a statement declaring that O'Sullivan had been excused from dealing with the media because of the exceptional circumstances affecting him. This decision was criticised by Shaun Murphy, and Ken Doherty. O'Sullivan went on to win the tournament against Ding Junhui, on 21 January 2007. In the match, he was noted for his good sportsmanship by Steve Davis, specifically for comforting Ding after the twelfth frame, during which Ding had become visibly upset by an overly partisan member of the crowd, who was later ejected. O'Sullivan was leading 9–3 at the time, and won the next frame for a 10–3 victory.
O'Sullivan went out of the Malta Cup with a 3–5 loss to Michael Holt in the first round. He reached the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, but lost 4–5 against Neil Robertson. In his quarter-final match against Joe Swail at the Irish Masters, O'Sullivan compiled a maximum break on his way to a narrow 5–4 victory, the second 147 in any professional competition in Ireland. The initial maximum break prize of a Citro?n Coupe, worth ˆ20,000, was later withdrawn by the organisers. He then defeated John Higgins 6–5 in the semi-finals and won the title by defeating Barry Hawkins 9–1 in the final. O'Sullivan then reached the semi-finals of the China Open, but lost 2–6 against eventual champion Graeme Dott. Just before the World Championship, in which he was to play a first-round match with Ding Junhui again, O'Sullivan claimed that the draw was fixed. This was subsequently denied by World Snooker, and O'Sullivan later retracted his accusation. In the end O'Sullivan won the tie easily by 10 frames to 2. He also won his second-round match against Robertson 13–10 (despite losing six frames in a row at one point), before losing his quarter-final match 9–13 against eventual champion John Higgins.
O'Sullivan withdrew from the first ranking event of the season, the Shanghai Masters, citing back problems for which doctors had advised him not to travel. He also chose not to enter the invitational Pot Black tournament. He made the final of the Grand Prix, but lost 6–9 against Marco Fu. During the Northern Ireland Trophy, he set a new record, by compiling five centuries in a 5–2 win over Ali Carter. This also included his seventh official competitive 147 maximum break. O'Sullivan went out of the tournament in the next round, having lost against Fergal O'Brien. On 2 December 2007, he won a fourth consecutive, and record seventh total, Premier League Snooker title, by beating John Higgins in the final by a score of 7–4. On 15 December 2007, O'Sullivan compiled his eighth maximum break in competition, in the deciding frame of his UK Championship semi–final against Mark Selby at Telford, equalling Hendry's record. In doing so, he also became only the third person in professional competition to compile a maximum to win a match. Hendry had made the first against O'Sullivan in the 1997 Charity Challenge final, and Mark Williams had made the second, at the Crucible in the first round of the 2005 World Championship. O'Sullivan is also the second player after John Higgins to make 147 breaks in two consecutive ranking tournaments (2007 Northern Ireland Trophy and 2007 Maplin UK Championship). He then went on to win the tournament, beating Stephen Maguire 10–2 in the final (from 8–0 up), thereby receiving a £100,000 cheque for winning his first ranking tournament in almost three years.
At the Masters on 12 January, Stephen Maguire edged out O'Sullivan in a final frame, to win their first-round match at Wembley. In the battle of the top two players in the provisional world rankings, O'Sullivan fought back from 1–4 down to level at 5–5 and take the match into a deciding eleventh frame. O'Sullivan missed the final blue with the rest, when poised to win the match, allowing Maguire to reach the quarter-finals. After withdrawing from the invitational Malta Cup, O'Sullivan returned at the Welsh Open in February. Playing a good tournament, he reached the final. Although he led 8–5, Selby won the last four frames to beat him 9–8. O'Sullivan was present at the China Open, in Beijing, where he lost 4–5 to Marco Fu in the first round. However, at the press conference, which followed the match, O'Sullivan was heard making some lewd remarks inviting a member of the press to perform fellatio on him, then laughing with the World Snooker media spokesman. O'Sullivan also joked about the size and girth of his penis, before simulating a sexual act on his microphone. In June 2008, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association punished him for his behaviour by docking the appearance-money and world-ranking points that he had earned from the event.
At the 2008 World Championships, O'Sullivan compiled a record-breaking ninth competitive maximum break against Mark Williams. It was his third of the season, and also his third maximum at the Crucible. It was the fourth maximum to be compiled in a winning frame of a match (following those of Hendry, Williams, and O'Sullivan himself). Interviewed by Steve Davis just after beating Williams 13–7, he said "I can finally buy a Bentley Continental GT". Soon after potting the final black, snooker legend and commentator Dennis Taylor labelled O'Sullivan as a "total genius." However, O'Sullivan's 147 was equalled by Ali Carter in the same tournament, thus halving the prize-money. O'Sullivan defeated Liu Chuang, Mark Williams, Liang Wenbo and Stephen Hendry en route to the final of the tournament. After the match Hendry described O'Sullivan as "the best in the world by a country mile." He then beat Carter 18–8 for the title on 5 May. In an interview after his third world-title win, he hinted again that he may not play in the 2008/2009 season, but also stated that he might go on to pursue many more world titles. At the end of the season, O'Sullivan left management company 110sport to join the Romford-based Grove Leisure.
O'Sullivan began the 2008/2009 season by winning the Northern Ireland Trophy, defeating Dave Harold 9–3 in the final. O'Sullivan is the only player to win back-to-back ranking events in the last four years. He then reached the final of the Shanghai Masters, having defeated Stephen Maguire in the semi–finals with two the top breaks of 141 and 145. However, in the final, he was defeated by qualifier Ricky Walden, 10–8. O'Sullivan was leading, but Walden pulled back four frames in a row to win the match. In the Premier League, he secured a 7–2 win over Mark Selby, which meant that he had won the event eight times in total, and five times consecutively. However, O'Sullivan failed to defend his UK Championship title, losing to Joe Perry 5–9 in the second round. O'Sullivan had conceded the twelfth game of the match to go 5–7 down, although Perry held a lead of only 23 points to zero. Commenting afterwards, O'Sullivan said "It might have looked like I lost my head or whatever, but I'm sure I'll bounce back." For this he was later fined £300, and was ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.
In the Masters, O'Sullivan reached the final by beating Joe Perry, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire. In a tense final against defending champion Mark Selby, neither player was able to obtain a sizeable lead, with frames littered with both big breaks and close finishes. After leading 3–1, O'Sullivan ended the afternoon session at 4–4, and took the first frame of the evening session. Selby, however, then won the next 3 frames to lead 7–5. O'Sullivan responded by taking three frames in succession himself, to lead 8–7. The following two frames were shared, and at 9–8, after both players had wasted chances, O'Sullivan constructed a break of 55, beating Mark Selby 10–8 and thereby claiming the title for the fourth time. In doing this, he became only the second player, after Stephen Hendry, to win the trophy more than three times. In his post-match interview, O'Sullivan proclaimed his victory, composed with a cue that he had obtained only the previous Saturday, as his greatest achievement in snooker. During an exhibition in Ireland in January 2009, O'Sullivan and Jimmy White made maximum breaks in consecutive frames. In the first round of 2009 World Championship O'Sullivan compiled three centuries in his 10–5 win against Stuart Bingham. O'Sullivan compiled a 140 break in the second, a 104 in the eighth, and a 103 in the 14th. He was defeated in the second round 11–13, by Mark Allen, after having led 9–7.
He began the season by winning the Shanghai Masters, defeating Liang Wenbo 10–5 in the final. On the way to reaching the final, he lost only 6 frames. He beat Graeme Dott 5–0 in the first round, Marco Fu 5–2 in the second round, Ding Junhui 5–3 in the quarter-finals, and John Higgins 6–1 in the semi–finals. After his Shanghai Masters victory, he joined the newly founded Snooker Players Association. In the second ranking event, the Grand Prix, he beat Jamie Burnett 5–3 in the first round, but then lost narrowly against John Higgins in the second round, by 4–5. On 29 November 2009, O'Sullivan did not retain his Premier League Snooker title, with Shaun Murphy defeating him 7–3 in the final. Following his 9–3 victory over Matthew Stevens in the first round of the UK Championship on 7 December 2009, O'Sullivan caused controversy in his post-match press conference. He described the outgoing regime at the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (headed by Sir Rodney Walker) as "a cancer running through the game" and also said, "Leukaemia has set in". He went on to endorse the new era of snooker, headed by Barry Hearn. He then won his next two matches, 9–3 against Peter Ebdon in the last 16, and Mark Selby in the quarter-finals, before losing the semi–final 8–9 to John Higgins, despite having come back from 2–8 to 8–8.
O'Sullivan began the defence of his Masters title by defeating Australian Neil Robertson 6–4 in the first round, after having trailed 0–3. After this, he defeated Peter Ebdon 6–3 in the quarter-final. In the semi-final, he beat Mark Williams 6–5, to reach his 6th Masters final in 7 years. O'Sullivan met Mark Selby in the final for the second consecutive year, and lost 9–10 despite having led 9–6. In the Welsh Open, he reached the semi–finals by beating Stuart Bingham 5–1 in the first round, Jamie Cope 5–0 in the second round, and Mark Allen 5–2 in the quarter-finals, but lost 4–6 against John Higgins in the semi–finals. O'Sullivan lost 3–5 in the first round of the China Open, against 22-year-old wild card Tian Pengfei. In the eighth frame, O'Sullivan made a mistake on the final black, and the ball finished over the pocket. He immediately conceded frame and match. With this, he also lost his chance to defend his official World No. 1 spot. At the World Championship, he defeated Liang Wenbo 10–7 in the first round and Mark Williams 13–10 in the second round, before losing 11–13 to Mark Selby in the quarter-finals.
O'Sullivan began the 2010/2011 season at Event 1 of the Players Tour Championship, where he lost in the quarter-finals against Jamie Cope, 0–4. O'Sullivan next competed at Event 4, where reached the final, but he lost 3–4 against Barry Pinches. At the World Open O'Sullivan made his record 10th maximum break in the last frame of his match against Mark King, which he won 3–0. However, he had to be persuaded by referee Jan Verhaas to play the final black, as he had become aware that there was no distinct prize money for a maximum break in the tournament, but only a prize of £4,000 for the highest break. Even then, he played the final black in a nonchalant fashion. O'Sullivan then defeated Jimmy White (3–1), Stephen Hendry (3–1), Stephen Maguire (3–1) and Peter Ebdon (3–1) to reach the final, where he lost 1–5 against Neil Robertson. O'Sullivan participated at the Premier League Snooker, and qualified for the finals unbeaten. He then defeated Neil Robertson 5–1 in the semi-finals, and Shaun Murphy 7–1 in the final, to claim his ninth Premier League Snooker title in 14 years. In the UK Championship in December, O'Sullivan suffered an early exit, losing 6–9 against Stuart Bingham in the first round.
At the Masters in January, O'Sullivan went out 4–6 in the first round against Mark Allen. O'Sullivan reached the semi-finals in the Snooker Shoot-Out in January 2011, before losing against Robert Milkins. He made the two highest breaks of the tournament, 112 and 123. He then lost in the first round of the next two ranking tournaments, both times against Ryan Day. He lost 2–4 at the Welsh Open, and 2–5 at the China Open. He reached the quarter-finals of the World Championship by defeating Dominic Dale 10–2 in the first round and Shaun Murphy 13–10 in the second round, but lost 10–13 against John Higgins.
O'Sullivan began the 2011/2012 season at Event 1 of the Players Tour Championship, where he won 4–0 in the final against Joe Perry. At the Paul Hunter Classic, he made the 11th official maximum break of his career, and set a new record of career maximum breaks. He reached the semi-finals, but lost 3–4 against Mark Selby. His next tournament was the Shanghai Masters, where he reached the second round, but lost 3–5 against Anthony Hamilton. In October 2011 he won the Kay Suzanne Memorial Trophy, by defeating Matthew Stevens 4–2 in the final. In November 2011 he reached the final of the Antwerp Open, but lost 3–4 against Judd Trump. After 12 of 12 events, O'Sullivan was ranked number two on the Order of Merit, and qualified for the Finals, but withdrew due to medical reasons.
O'Sullivan won the 10th Premier League title of his career. After topping the table in the league stage, he defeated Mark Williams to reach the final, where he defeated Ding Junhui 7–1. His next tournament was the UK Championship, where he lost in the second round 5–6 against eventual champion Judd Trump. At the Masters, he again lost against Trump, this time 2–6 in the quarter-finals. At the German Masters, he reached his first ranking final since the 2010 World Open, and won 9–7 against Stephen Maguire, despite having trailed 0–4 against Andrew Higginson in the first round. He then reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Open, and the quarter-finals of the China Open, but lost 2–6 against Mark Selby and 4–5 against Maguire.
At the World Championship O'Sullivan saw off former world champions in each of his first three matches. He beat Peter Ebdon 10–4 in the first round, Mark Williams 13–6 in the second, and Neil Robertson 13–10 in the quarter-finals. He beat two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens 17–10 in the semi-finals, and defeated Ali Carter 18–11 in the final, to win his fourth world title. Aged 36, and just 40 days older than Dennis Taylor was when he won the title in 1985, O'Sullivan became the oldest world champion since 45-year-old Ray Reardon in 1978. In the eighth frame of the final, O'Sullivan made a break of 141, the highest break ever recorded in a Crucible final. He was ranked world number nine at the end of the season. On 10 May 2012, O'Sullivan was named as the World Snooker Player of the Year and the Snooker Writers Player of the Year. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Walter Donaldson, Mark Williams and John Higgins.
On 6 June the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association released a statement announcing that O'Sullivan had not signed the official players' contract and would therefore not be eligible to play in any 2012/2013 World Snooker event until he did so. On the same day O'Sullivan said that he found the contract "too onerous" and that he was in a stage of his career where he did not wish to make the commitment. On 7 August it was announced that he had now signed the contract and would be playing in October's International Championship and December's UK Championship. O'Sullivan returned to action at the third UK event of the Players Tour Championship in September, where he lost 3–4 to Simon Bedford after leading 3–2. After the Shanghai Masters he dropped out of the top sixteen for the first time since entering it in the 1994/1995 season, as he was ranked world number 17. O'Sullivan's return to snooker was short-lived, as he withdrew from the inaugural International Championship due to advice from his doctor not to travel. On 6 November O'Sullivan announced that he had withdrawn from every event he had entered and that he would not play for the remainder of the season. However, on 26 February O'Sullivan announced during a press conference that he would return to the game and defend his World Championship title.
At the Crucible O'Sullivan defeated Marcus Campbell in the last 32, Ali Carter in the last 16, Stuart Bingham in the quarter-finals, and Judd Trump in the semi-finals. He reached the final without falling behind even once, and defeated Barry Hawkins 18–12 to win his fifth world title. O'Sullivan's break of 103 in the 15th frame was his 128th century break at the Crucible Theatre, breaking Stephen Hendry's record of 127 Crucible centuries. During the final he extended the record to 131 century breaks. O'Sullivan became the only player to score six century breaks in a World Championship final. He also became only the third player to retain his title at the Crucible after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.
On 1 May 2013, O'Sullivan announced that his return to the Crucible would be short-lived, and that he would not compete in future World Championships. However, after his title win, O'Sullivan refused definitively to rule out a title defence in 2014, saying in a post-match interview that "I just love playing, so I will definitely be playing in some smaller events, and we will just see what goes on.
O'Sullivan started the 2013/2014 season ranked number 19. For personal reasons, he pulled out of the first ranking tournament of the season, the Wuxi Classic, shortly before he was due to face Michael Wasley in the qualifying round. In June 2013 he competed in the Bulgarian Open, his first tournament appearance outside England in 15 months, but lost 2–4 against John Higgins in the semi-finals. In August 2013 he announced that his tournament schedule for the remainder of the season would include the UK Championship, the German Masters, the Masters, and the Welsh Open, as well as returning to the Crucible in 2014 to defend his World Championship title. In the same month he suffered a surprise 1–4 defeat against Peter Lines in the last 32 of the Bluebell Wood Open, but went on to win the Paul Hunter Classic by defeating Gerard Greene 4–0 in the final. O'Sullivan then qualified for the International Championship by defeating Joel Walker 6–1 in the qualifying round, and defeated Anthony McGill 6–2 at the venue, before losing 4–6 against Liang Wenbo in the last 32. After that O'Sullivan reached the final of the Antwerp Open, but lost 3–4 against Mark Selby, despite leading 3–1. In the Champion of Champions he defeated Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson in final frame deciders and went on to win the title by defeating Stuart Bingham 10–8 in the final. He reached the quarter-finals of the UK Championship, but lost 4–6 against Bingham, despite making breaks of 135 and 127 in the match.
At the Masters, O'Sullivan defeated Robert Milkins 6–1 in the first round, before he whitewashed Ricky Walden 6–0 in the quarter-finals, a match that lasted just 57 minutes and 48 seconds. During the match he scored 556 points without reply, a new record in a professional event, beating the previous record of 495 points set by Ding Junhui at the 2007 Premier League Snooker. He defeated Stephen Maguire 6–2 in the semi-finals to reach a record tenth Masters final, surpassing the nine appearances by Stephen Hendry. Facing defending champion Mark Selby in the final, he took a 7–1 lead in the first session, before going on to a 10–4 victory for his fifth Masters title. On 22 January 2014, the Disciplinary Committee of the WPBSA issued a statement that O'Sullivan had been found in breach of the association's Members Rules. It fined him £6,000 and ordered him to pay £1,000 in costs over three posts on his personal Twitter account, made in September and October 2013, that it deemed damaging to the image of the sport. The first post related to match-fixing allegations, the second to a suggestion that he had used performance-enhancing drugs, and the third to a tweet that was described as "offensive". The committee fined him an additional £1,000 for making "abusive, insulting and disrespectful" comments to referee Jan Verhaas during the December 2013 qualifying round for the German Masters. The incident arose after Verhaas asked O'Sullivan to tuck his shirt in during the match. O'Sullivan apologised for his conduct with the referee, stating that he felt unwell on the day and that the venue was overly warm.
At the Welsh Open, O'Sullivan defeated Ricky Walden 4–1 in the last 16, John Higgins 5–1 in the quarter-finals, and Barry Hawkins 6–2 in the semi-finals. He defeated Ding Junhui 9–3 in the final to win his third Welsh Open title, and the 26th ranking title of his career. In the last frame of the final, he compiled a record 12th maximum break in professional competition, breaking the previous record of 11 maximum breaks that he had held jointly with Stephen Hendry. During the season O'Sullivan competed at the Players Tour Championship, and finished second on the European Tour Order of Merit, to qualify for the Players Championship Grand Final. There he defeated Scott Donaldson 4–0 in the last 32, but lost 3–4 against Yu Delu in the last 16, despite making a 140, the highest break of the tournament.
At the World Championship, O'Sullivan began his title defence by beating Robin Hull 10–4 in the first round. Playing Joe Perry in the second round, O'Sullivan was behind for the first two sessions, but recovered to win the match 13–11. Up against Shaun Murphy in the 16th World Championship quarter-final of his career, O'Sullivan took 13 of the last 14 frames to win the match 13–3, with a session to spare. He defeated Barry Hawkins 17–7 in the semi-finals, also with a session to spare, to reach his sixth World Championship final. Facing Mark Selby in the final, O'Sullivan began strongly, taking a 10–5 lead, but lost 10 of the next 12 frames to trail 12–15. He went on to lose 14–18, his first ever defeat in a World Championship final. At around 1:30 a.m., on their way home from the final, O'Sullivan and his six-year-old son were involved in a car crash on the M1 motorway near Leicester, after the sports car O'Sullivan was driving hit a patch of standing water and collided with the central reservation. Neither O'Sullivan nor his son were injured. After the World Championship, a new ranking system took effect, based on a two-year rolling prize money list rather than ranking points. This meant that O'Sullivan ended the season ranked number 4.
O'Sullivan started the 2014/2015 season at the Paul Hunter Classic, but lost 2–4 against Tian Pengfei in the last 16. His first ranking event was the Shanghai Masters, where he lost 3–5 against Alan McManus. Ronnie O'Sullivan then competed in the International Championship, cited as the biggest event in Asia, in Chengdu after beating James Cahill to qualify. Having battled to beat Ben Woollaston 6–4, in his opening match of the tournament, Ronnie sailed past his next two opponents, McGill and Li Hang, 6–1. This set up a meeting with Mark Williams, a man who had not beat O'Sullivan for 12 years, in the quarters; however, after falling 3–0 behind, Williams won the next 5 frames and eventually the match, 6–5. O'Sullivan next competed in the Champion of Champions where he was defending champion. O'Sullivan begun his defence with a 4–2 defeat of Stuart Bingham. He then went on to whitewash Marco Fu 6–0 to reach the semi-final. In the semi-final, O'Sullivan defeated Ding Junhui 6–4 and then went on to defeat Judd Trump in a high-scoring final, 10–7, making four century breaks and eleven breaks over fifty during the match. On 4 December 2014, O'Sullivan completed his 13th career maximum break in the fourth round of the UK Championship, against Matthew Selt. Three days later he won his fifth UK Championship, coming through 10–9 against Judd Trump in the final. After trailing 1–5 and 4–9, Trump won five frames in succession, before O'Sullivan prevailed in the deciding frame despite playing with a broken ankle, having broken it the previous week whilst running.
In the opening frame of his quarter-final match with Marco Fu at the Masters, O'Sullivan compiled the 776th century break of his career to overtake Stephen Hendry as the player with the most tons in the history of the sport. He received a standing ovation from the audience and went on to beat Fu 6–1. However, in the semi-finals he was defeated 6–1 by Neil Robertson, which meant O'Sullivan lost at that stage for the first time in his Masters' career after 10 prior victories and also ended a winning streak in all competitions which stood at 15 matches.
In the World Championship, O'Sullivan defeated Craig Steadman 10–3 in the first round and Matthew Stevens 13–5 in the second round, but suffered a surprise 9–13 defeat to Stuart Bingham in the quarter-finals. O'Sullivan was involved in a number of incidents during the tournament. While playing Steadman, he breached snooker's dress code when he removed a pair of uncomfortable shoes and played briefly in his socks, before borrowing shoes from tournament director Mike Ganley. In his match with Stevens, frustrated at missing a shot, he almost snapped his cue in half by hitting it against the table. In his quarter-final match, O'Sullivan placed his chalk on the table and used it to line up a shot. Controversially, referee Terry Camilleri did not penalise him for the incident, even though many commentators, including former world champion Ken Doherty and former tour referee Michaela Tabb, argued that under the rules of snooker the referee should have called a 7-point foul. These incidents led Stephen Hendry to say that O'Sullivan was not fully focused. "Personally I think it is a sign he has got other things on his mind," said Hendry. "He is not focused properly on winning the World Championship.
O'Sullivan won the pro–am Pink Ribbon tournament in July 2015, defeating Darryn Walker 4–2 in the final, but took a hiatus from the professional tour for almost eight months. He declined to defend his Champion of Champions and UK Championship titles, stating that he was suffering from debilitating insomnia, but he made his debut providing in-studio expert analysis during the UK Championship, alongside Jimmy White. He returned to professional competition in the qualifying rounds for the German Masters in December 2015, defeating Hamza Akbar 5–1 in the first round, but losing 3–5 to Stuart Carrington in the second round.
In the 2016 New Year Honours, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to snooker.
In group one of the Championship League, he made the 800th competitive century break of his career in his match against Barry Hawkins, and went on to defeat Ricky Walden 3–0 in the semi-finals and Robert Milkins 3–0 in the final, earning a ticket to the winners' group. At the Masters, he defeated Mark Williams 6–5 in the first round, Mark Selby 6–3 in the quarter-finals, and Stuart Bingham 6–3 in the semi-finals to reach the eleventh Masters final of his career. He defeated Barry Hawkins 10–1 in the final to win his sixth Masters title and equal Stephen Hendry's record for the most Masters wins.
At the Welsh Open, O'Sullivan defeated Barry Pinches 4–1 in the first round. In the fifth frame of the match, he declined the opportunity to make a maximum break, potting the pink off the penultimate red and completing a break of 146. He stated afterward that the prize money of £10,000 was not worthy of a 147. World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn called the decision "unacceptable" and "disrespectful." In the second round, he defeated Tian Pengfei 4–0 in just 39 minutes, with breaks of 110, 90, 112 and 102 in the four frames played. Tian scored only 37 points in the match. In the third round, he defeated Jimmy Robertson 4–0 in 55 minutes, a performance that included breaks of 94 and 131 as part of a run of 300 points without reply. He defeated Yu Delu 4–1 in the last 16, and then defeated world number one Mark Selby 5–1 in the quarterfinals, finishing with a break of 132. A 6–3 victory over Joe Perry in the semi-final secured a place in the final against Neil Robertson. Despite trailing 3–5 after the afternoon session, O'Sullivan won all six frames played in the evening session, finishing with a break of 141 to defeat Robertson 9–5 and equal John Higgins's record of four Welsh Open titles. It was his 28th ranking title, which put him in joint second place with Higgins and Steve Davis for the number of career ranking titles. Over the tournament as a whole, O'Sullivan won 36 of the 47 frames he played, and compiled ten century breaks.
At the Championship League, O'Sullivan lost 3–2 in the final against Judd Trump. During the tournament, O'Sullivan's 24-match winning streak came to an end following a 3–0 defeat from Mark Williams. O'Sullivan faced Michael Holt in the first round of the World Grand Prix, where he lost 4–3.
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