Joe Johnson
Former World Champion and Eurosport commentator Joe Johnson gives his views on Ronnie O'Sullivan's decision to return to snooker….


"I'm very excited that Ronnie is coming back and that he'll play on the opening day of the World Championship as defending champion. It will be great to see Ronnie O'Sullivan back playing snooker again and doing what he does best.


He says he's come back because he's bored and I can totally believe that. I was forced into retirement because I broke my ankle, so I can understand exactly where he's coming from. One minute you've been playing snooker all your life and next you don't have anything to do. There's nothing you can do to replenish the feeling you get from tournament play. So although it was Ronnie's own decision to take time off, I can fully understand it when he says he missed competition play. There really is nothing, absolutely nothing, which can take the place of that competitive edge that you've grown used to over your professional career.


He always threatened in the past to retire and take time out from the game because he was losing passion, and now that he's done that he's found out that he does miss it and that he needs to be playing. He may have been bored playing, but he's much more bored not playing!


You can never be sure what Ronnie will do, but I'm fairly confident from now on he'll play in most events. He's had the time off he needed and will want to get back playing competitively on a regular basis. He also has to think about his age, he's 37 now and only got a few years left really at the highest level so he'll also want to make the most of that.


Even though he's been away, I'm sure he's still kept his hand in on the practice table, though maybe not the four or five hours a day which players need to. But I'm sure he's done enough not to get too rusty, more out of habit than anything. I don't think it will take too much for him to get his potting hand back. He's Ronnie O'Sullivan, one of the most naturally gifted players the game has seen, but whether he can get his match sharpness back is another thing completely. You can still lose the edge of playing under match conditions which obviously he hasn't had for the past year.
I think his attitude will be exactly the same, he's always been controversial and I think he always will be, but I do think he's re-found his hunger for the game. He's missed the game and the game has missed him.


I really believe he can win it, he's defending champion and the spotlight will be on him which he loves and thrives on. The number two and three seeds are likely to be Judd Trump and Mark Selby, so they will be kept away from him in the other half of the draw. He wouldn't have returned without believing he can win it, he has great belief in his own ability.


Obviously Ronnie's return is bad news for the player who is ranked 16th after the China Open and just before the World Championship, as being defending champion he automatically becomes the number one seed for the tournament, which means the 16th ranked player has to go through qualification. Nowadays qualifying for a tournament is incredibly difficult and a top 16 player can easily lose to a player much lower down the rankings.


Whatever happens it's going to be a great tournament. I can't wait!"