Ronnie O’Sullivan returned to the snooker table in some style on Friday, sporting a new moustache and romping to a hat-trick of 3-0 victories, but he is not entirely happy with the ‘new normal’ of the Championship League.
The Rocket looked almost entirely unfazed by not playing for months as he whitewashed Kishan Hirani, Michael Georgiou and Chris Wakelin, knocking in two centuries in the process.
It was utter dominance from the five-time world champion, although his new look garnered more attention than his break-building.
The 44-year-old has used lockdown to unleash a substantial moustache, leading to comparisons to the likes of Freddie Mercury and notorious drug overlord El Chapo.
However, it is a snooker icon that Ronnie says he is modelling the new facial hair on.
‘I set myself a challenge as soon as we were in lockdown. Initially I thought I’d grow a beard,’ explained O’Sullivan. ‘But that got a bit itchy. Then my partner said: “Why not grow a tache?”
‘So I thought: “Why not for a giggle?” I might keep it. I’m like a new Willie Thorne – but with hair. I hope he is doing okay.’
Sadly, Thorne is currently suffering serious health problems at his home in Spain after being diagnosed with leukaemia and now struggling with sepsis after being discharged, which is why the Rocket was wishing him well.
O’Sullivan may have been near-faultless on the table but he said he was struggling with the set-up in Milton Keynes and may not play many more events if this is the ‘new normal’ for the sport.
Due to health and safety precautions over coronavirus, players must arrive at the venue the day before they play to be tested and then isolate entirely in their rooms until the results come through the next morning.
They cannot leave the venue at all from entering to when they have finished playing and the Rocket found it tough.
‘If every tournament was to be like this then I am not sure I would be able to do it,’ he said.
‘I have struggled. I was in the room for 24 hours so I have had a bit of a headache and started to get a bit of a cough and can’t even get the window open.
‘You want to be in good health at the moment so this bubble is not ideal. If the facilities do [improve] and if you have to stay on site at the hotel and [are able to] use the gym, then it would be better.
‘At the moment there is none of that so it is tough. I like my own company but it is tough being cooped up. It is not easy for me, I must admit.
‘It is just about having the freedom to go out for a walk, get a bit of fresh air and a coffee.’
Ronnie has a couple of days off back at home before returning on Monday to play again in his second group stage on Tuesday.
Harvey Chandler has already booked his place in the Rocket’s next group, with the other two spots yet to be filled.