RONNIE O’Sullivan’s next competitive match will be at the Crucible after the five-time world champion pulled out of the China Open on health grounds.

The Rocket supplied a doctor’s note to the authorities citing a recurrence of the glandular fever that has affected him for three years.

O’Sullivan, 39, has not played next week’s Beijing tournament for three years – one in which the finalists certainly have less recovery time for the World Championship.

The debate about whether it is better to get to the final in Beijing and be match-sharp and winning, or fall short of that, even miss it altogether and be fresh, is one that divides players.

However O’Sullivan DID enter the blue-riband Sheffield event by Friday’s deadline - after last week teasing an interviewer from the Guardian newspaper and suggesting that his participation was not guaranteed.

O’Sullivan, speaking to Inside Snooker on Friday morning, said: “I had to pull out of the China Open with great regret over the glandular fever, and a doctor’s note is with World Snooker.

“It has reared up again which is unfortunate, but it is something that can stay with you and doesn’t just go away. It can come back, that is the nature of the illness.

“But I have been basically ordered by my doctor not to travel to China or exert myself too much for a couple of weeks.

“I am very disappointed not to be playing, and gutted to be letting the Chinese people down – though it is for unavoidable reasons.

“I wanted the match practice, people have seen I have said I needed to play more this season, and I have done that.

“But your health is the most important thing to look after and it would be wrong for me to go all that way right now.”

While O’Sullivan’s late withdrawal is certainly unfortunate and to be regretted, and annoying for Luca Brecel who had to play him in the qualifier, it will be good news for someone in Beijing.

The world No.3 was due to meet the winner of the wild-card round match between Robin Hull and Chinese prospect Yan Bingtao – the winner will now get a bye into the last 32.


Photograph by Monique Limbos