By STEVE DOUGLAS
2012-11-07 12:30 AM
O'Sullivan, widely regarded as the most naturally talented player in the history of the sport, informed World Snooker that he doesn't intend to compete for the rest of the season, meaning he will not defend the world title he won in May for the fourth time.
"I have spoken to Ronnie and he has decided to withdraw from any events he has entered, and he will not be playing for the rest of this season," World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said in a statement. "He has some personal issues which he needs to resolve."
O'Sullivan's manager, Django Fung, said the 36-year-old Englishman, who battles depression, had made his decision due to "personal problems, his health, travelling, children, family and so on," adding that the break from snooker may become permanent.
That would be a major blow to the sport considering seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry, who rivals O'Sullivan as most pundits' choice as the game's greatest player, retired in May.
"You never know _ in six months' time, next season, he might decide he's 100 percent again and we might see the best of Ronnie O'Sullivan again," Fung told the BBC.
"We all have our own problems but some can handle it better than others. Ronnie finds that while he has personal issues going on he finds it hard to concentrate on playing professional snooker."
A fluent and speedy break-builder, O'Sullivan took over from Alex Higgins and Jimmy White as snooker's big entertainer, earning him a legion of fans all over the world. But his career has been dogged by controversy because of mental-health and family problems. His father was sent to prison for murder in 1992, just before his son turned professional, and O'Sullivan has had numerous run-ins with snooker's authorities.
O'Sullivan has threatened to quit the sport on a number of occasions, including this year when he complained about the demands of the tour as Hearns looks to expand it globally, particularly in China. On each occasion, O'Sullivan has ended up playing on, but this is the closest he has come to giving up entirely.
He took a sabbatical after the worlds and has only played in one low-profile tournament since. He withdrew from last week's International Championship, citing illness.
O'Sullivan's other world titles came in 2001, '04 and 08. Only Hendry, Steve Davis and Ray Reardon (both with six) have won snooker's top prize more times.