Snooker: O'Sullivan will defend world title

Ronnie O'Sullivan is set to end his snooker exile and defend his world title in April this year, the English cuemaster announced at a news conference in London on Tuesday.

Four-time world champion O'Sullivan, 37, has played only one competitive match this season after growing disenchanted with snooker and had until the end of February to decide whether to defend his title before the entry list closed.

As reigning champion, O'Sullivan will be the top seed at the World Championship, which starts at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, northern England, on April 20.

And he insisted a lack of match practice was no reason to disregard his title chances, saying: "I just thought it was time to come back. I have a different perspective now."

He added: "I am used to being written off. I know how good I am and that I can do this."

O'Sullivan has played just once since winning his fourth world title in May -- an uninspiring loss to the previously little-known Simon Bedford at a minor tournament in Gloucester, southwest England.

"Three or four months ago I was sitting thinking that I would rather be losing 10-0 in Sheffield to be back playing, rather than going for lunch, dinner and chilling out," O'Sullivan, from Chigwell, east of London, explained.

"I got bored and had to get back to playing, winning or losing, and it shows how big a part of my life snooker is.

"I feel refreshed, I was never out of juice. I needed to take some time out, but not too much time, and I had it in the back of my mind that I would come back to playing snooker, but I needed to come back with a clear head."

O'Sullivan, installed at 7-1 for the title by betting firm William Hill behind 5-1 favourite Judd Trump, has played some exhibition matches with friend Jimmy White but accepts returning to competitive action will be something else entirely.

"I've played three or four exhibitions but I've played 10 days in nine months, he said. "I've potted lots of balls but I'm match rusty.

"I've not played matches in tense situations and it's going to be a tough course with no practice.

"You can never replicate match situations anywhere else. This is a massive challenge but I see this as the start of a bigger picture."

Former world champion Dennis Taylor, speaking before the talented O'Sullivan made his announcement said snooker badly needed to see the return of a player nicknamed "The Rocket" for his speed of play.

"The game needs Ronnie O'Sullivan. He's not just any player, he's the most naturally gifted player we have ever had in the game," the Irishman, world champion in 1985, told the BBC.

O'Sullivan wrote to World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn in November to say he would be skipping the remainder of the season, sparking speculation he was set to retire.

The player has had a series of differences with World Snooker over the demands on players, although his management team cited personal problems when he stepped away from the sport last year.

O'Sullivan has been eager to strike a balance between a career and family life, which is complicated by the increasing amount of travel on the expanding snooker tour and the ranking points system which rewards players who take part in the majority of tournaments.