RONNIE O’Sullivan admits he is suffering from a seven-year itch when it comes to the Coral UK Championship – and it needs a fifth title to take care of the problem.
The Rocket was launched on the path to his current stardom with a sensational breakthrough success over Stephen Hendry in the UK final as a 17-year-old.
And five-time world champion O’Sullivan, 39 on December 5, lifted a trophy carrying considerable sentimental value for a third time in 2001, the same year he claimed a first world title.
But he has not won the event that starts this week in York for seven years since demolishing Stephen Maguire 10-2 in the final.
And having boosted his haul in the other two Majors at the World Championships and the Masters, title favourite O’Sullivan is desperate to put things right.
He arrives at the Barbican Centre for a first-round clash with Daniel Wells in superb form, having produced some of his best snooker at the recent Champion of Champions.
World No4 O’Sullivan said: “It’s funny with the UK, for many years it was the one I had won the most on four titles, whereas I had won the Masters and the world title less.
“I have done well in those other two recently but not the UK Championship.
“It is special, it will always be special to me because it is one of the biggest prizes in our sport, but also it is where it all started for me.
“It was the first major event that I won, and you don’t forget that ever.
“Winning that first one at the age of 17 was an amazing experience and I’m sure I didn’t take it all in at the time.
“But I was just thinking the other day that this was my big one for so long, I won it early in my career a few times and it has now been seven years since I lifted the trophy.
“I am on five worlds and five Masters now, so being on four UK titles that is lagging behind.
“I haven’t done as well as I would like in the event for a number of years and that is something I would like to put right.
“And I would like to bring that total up to five before my career is over and tuck another one under my belt. I like York, there are places I can go running and enjoy my stay.
“I do think it is a bit more of a lottery with the best of 11 frame matches all the way through, it used to be best of 17s and with that I would have a lot more of a chance.
“The longer distance does favour the stronger players, but I will give it my best shot.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos