Ronnie O'Sullivan will play the Masters this season on one condition

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he will return to the Masters this season, as long as his media commitments are limited and he doesn’t feel his focus is being taken away from the snooker.

The Rocket decided not to play in the event this year, allowing Ali Carter to take his place at Alexandra Palace.

O’Sullivan said the decision was down to the stress that comes with the tournament, with pressure to find tickets for friends and family in the London competition and the added media commitments of a Triple Crown event.

It had seemed like the 44-year-old would skip the Masters again this season, having said as much on Pete Cohen’s podcast: ‘London, the Masters is a no-no for me, if I never played in that again I wouldn’t be disappointed.’

However, he looks to have changed his tune and will compete, as long as WST do not place too many demands on his time.

The Rocket says that on his way to winning a sixth World Championship title this year, his requests were respected and he didn’t have to do huge amount of media after his epic semi-final win over Mark Selby.

If that is the case again, and ticket requests will undoubtedly be limited due to coronavirus, then we should see the world champion at the Alexandra Palace again.

‘The ticket situation and requests for tickets is a big one for me,’ O’Sullivan told Eurosport. ‘Then you have the media commitments.

‘Like I’ve said, the reason I didn’t play in the Masters last year was because I felt after I won my semi-final (in 2019) there was so much time taken we couldn’t prepare as well enough for the final as I’d have liked to have done.

‘I’ve said, if I do reach the final then I’m happy to give an hour of my time, but after that I need to get home to get some rest.

‘Thankfully, after the World Championship semi-finals, they agreed to that. I’ve put them protocols down for myself because I do want to play in those tournaments.

‘You want to play and give it your best. You don’t want to get to the final and your time is spent trying to make some kind of commercial.

‘Anything that distracts you up until that point has to come at a minimum or at least your priorities have to be considered. As long as they are considered, and you can work with the promoters and they are understanding, I shouldn’t see an issue in me playing.’

O’Sullivan would go on to lose that 2019 final 10-4 to Judd Trump, which is perhaps why he has such poor memories of the event.

The 2021 Masters could be a special tournament, though, as it may be the first to see a crowd since the reduced audience at the World Championship final in August.

After recent Government rulings, WST are hoping to welcome up to 1,000 fans per session at Alexandra Palace at the event which runs from 10-17 January.

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: ‘We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome our fabulous fans back to live snooker events. We are reliant on Government advice but we will do everything in our powers to make this a reality.

‘The Masters in London is such a special event and I’m sure anyone who has the opportunity to be one of the lucky few in the crowd will grasp that chance. The event is renowned for the enthusiasm of the fans and even with a reduced audience I have no doubt it will be a sensational occasion.’

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