Ronnie O’Sullivan says the lack of crowd at the Crucible helped him win a sixth World Snooker Championship title this year, saying his rowdy supporters can scare him sometimes.
The 44-year-old sensationally claimed a sixth world title with a dominant 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in Sheffield, with the final played out in front of a reduced crowd of around 300 people.
The vast majority of the tournament was played with no audience, though, due to coronavirus regulations, and O’Sullivan believes that played into his hands.
Although he is the most popular player in the game, he feels the pressure of the crowd heavily and can even find it intimidating, so was pleased to do without it in Sheffield over the last two weeks.
‘I get a lot of support, a lot of players do, but they can get a bit rowdy,’ said O’Sullivan.
‘I love my fans, I love all fans, I love Mark Selby fans, any snooker fan, because they’re a fan of snooker.
‘But when I’m out there playing and I’ve got all these people going, “come on Ronnie!” it scares me a bit because there’s so much passion in their voice, it’s like life and death to them.
‘This is meant to be more of a nice gentleman’s sort of sport and up until there was no crowd, I felt pressure because I want to do well, but when you throw that into the frying pan, it takes the fun out of it for me.
‘I just wish they could be a bit more quiet, enjoy the game and let us get on with it.
‘But that’s the crowd. I didn’t realise I’d do better, probably win more if there wasn’t any crowd because I had a difference mindset.
‘I just find the expectation gets a bit much and I can’t believe I’ve done it so long, because this week without a crowd, I could do this every week for the rest of me life. All that pressure and emotion, it’s just a lot harder.’
O’Sullivan has now won six world titles, but much was made that he had not lifted the trophy since 2013 and had not been past the quarter-finals since 2014.
He felt that he struggled with the 17-day slog of the epic event, but now he feels it was the pressure of the crowd that caused his dry spell in Sheffield.
‘I’ve realised I really struggle with the mayhem and the crowds, being at this tournament,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport.
‘I just thought it was the pressure of being the World Championship, it wasn’t anything to do with that.
‘Up until the final it was like I was playing at home. Although I was playing at the Crucible I didn’t have to put up with all, not put up with, but it just affected me, I couldn’t relax.
‘I notice the difference when they let a crowd in. Although I get a lot of support, believe me I’m better off without the crowd.
‘It’s too much pressure because I feel the weight of them wanting me to do well. Up until the final I felt a bit of nice nerves.
‘For the final, we both had our supporters, but I preferred it when it was empty. But that’s just me, I don’t deal with feeling like I have to deliver and perform, it’s hard.’
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