Snooker: Why star man Ronnie O’Sullivan is still Crucible box office

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In sport, it seems like nothing can surprise you anymore.

But in a fortnight where Barcelona have been taken apart by Bayern Munich and Chris Gayle has redefined the boundaries - pardon the pun - of cricketing excellence, nothing has struck me quite like the curious case of Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Now, the Rocket is a player, a man, an enigma that has enjoyed plenty of column inches over the years, either for his on the table exploits (four world titles and prize money somewhere in the region of £7million) or his off-table demons, including well-publicised battles with drink and depression after his father was jailed for murder.

Of course, O’Sullivan won his fourth world crown at the Crucible last season, defeating Ali Carter. This hack witnessed every round of O’Sullivan’s 2012 journey, and it was clear even to me that his name was on the trophy.

But, as much as Ronnie’s onscene talent was clear to see, so was his love/hate relationship with the game that had brought him fame and wealth.

As he lifted the World Championship trophy aloft once more, there was a nagging doubt in the back of the minds of everyone lucky enough to witness it.

Would this be the last time anyone would see Ronnie O’Sullivan on that famous Crucible baize?

He then announced a self-imposed sabbatical - but the lure proved too much.

O’Sullivan revealed that the turning point came, when he played a few frames with his Chinese takeaway delivery driver friend and thought: “Wow, I’m not playing badly here”.

Now, he’s never been one for understatement, has Ronnie.

But that quote alone conjoured up a wonderful image in my mind: of, maybe, Lionel Messi taking a break from football, before rediscovering his love for the beautiful game at a game of five-a-side with his dentist.

Or LeBron James realising: “Hey, I’m not bad at this am I?” while shooting a few hoops in his local Miami park, with his barman mate.

Sound crazy? Only in sport could it be true.

Now, instead of clearing the table on his own snooker table against his mates, Ronnie is wiping the floor with seasoned professionals who have played the game for years.

Earlier in this week, I once again witnessed O’Sullivan in full flow as he rattled in breaks of 79, 111, 87, 133 and 78 against a demoralised Stuart Bingham.

It was like he’d never been away.

As early as the first mid-session interval, when O’Sullivan took the first four frames, you were already looking forward to the semi-finals - and the inevitable question: who can beat him?

In the past, O’Sullivan was capable of self-destructing mentally.

Now those days are gone and it’s difficult to see anyone - even the Rocket himself - beating him.