World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan is expected to feature in the 2022 UK Championship in York, despite claiming his exit from the Northern Ireland Championship was due to the fact that he had lost enthusiasm for the sport.
The Rocket won his seventh world title at the Crucible back in May when he defeated Judd Trump in the final 18-13, putting him level with Stephen Hendry for the most wins in the tournament. However, since that triumph, he has struggled to find his best form.
O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy at the UK Championship more times than anybody else and he will be hoping a return to York will help him produce his best again. The 46-year-old is a seven-time winner of the Triple Crown event. His last success came in 2018 when he got the better of Mark Allen 10-6 in the final.
The bookmakers are expecting O’Sullivan to be a strong contender for the biggest event of the season so far. He is the 4/1 favourite in the live snooker odds to prevail, a victory which would bring up his 22nd Triple Crown success.
Early season concerns for The Rocket
In the three events O’Sullivan has entered prior to the UK Championship, he failed to get past the second round of the tournament. His season began in the Championship League where he won all three of his matches in stage one. Unfortunately for the man from Essex, he was eliminated in stage two.
Things got worse for O’Sullivan in the British Open as he failed to get past the qualifying round. He was beaten by Alexander Ursenbacher. It was the second time he had lost to the Swiss player as he also fell to him at the 2019 Welsh Open.
O’Sullivan’s wait for the title at the Northern Ireland Open continues. He has reached the final of the event on three occasions, but he has had to settle for the runner-up spot each time. This year he was unable to get over the first hurdle. In his opening round match with David Grace, he took a 2-0 lead but then lost four frames to go out 4-2.
O’Sullivan protecting world number one ranking
When he won the World Championship at the Crucible earlier this year, O’Sullivan jumped back to the top of the world rankings in the sport. If he is to protect this position, he is going to need a much better performance in the UK Championship.
Trump is second in the standings and is less than £100,000 behind the man that many believe is the greatest snooker player of all time. One of Trump’s targets, before this season began, was to reclaim the number one position in the world rankings.
"More drama than the 1985 world final!"— Eurosport (@eurosport) December 7, 2020
Judd Trump and Neil Robertson paid homage to snooker's most memorable match in their epic UK Championship marathon
Neil Robertson is another who will have O’Sullivan in his sights. The Australian has won more prize money than any other overseas player in history. The Thunder from Down Under lifted the UK Championship title in 2013, 2015, and 2020, so he is very familiar with success in York. A fourth victory could see him leapfrog ahead of O’Sullivan and Trump in the rankings.
This year’s UK Championship has over £1 million in prize money on offer. It will be the first of three Triple Crown events this season, with the Masters and World Championship to follow.