He's one of the most popular players of all-time but Ronnie O’Sullivan says he ‘prefers’ snooker behind closed doors.

The Rocket is one of the most widely-adored men on the snooker circuit, romping to his maiden world title back in 2001 and enjoying an unprecedented epoch of success at the summit of his sport.

And the world No.6 is a regular recipient of raucous support all over the world, invariably enjoying the backing of the crowd that has helped him secure a thrilling 36 ranking event titles.

The five-time world champion succumbed to group winners’ stage defeat against Stuart Bingham in the Championship League behind closed doors, however, sparking fears his performances may be inhibited given the absence of fans.

But O’Sullivan was not fazed by that display and reckons the advent of ‘pure snooker’ can propel him to a sixth World Championship triumph at the Crucible this summer.

“As a player it was fine [behind closed doors] and I actually preferred it, to be honest with you!” the 44-year-old said.

“There was no expectation on me to create magical moments - there were only two cameramen who had to sit there and watch it along with the people at home!

“Playing-wise, I really enjoyed it - with no crowd, there was no expectation to deliver and it was just like having a good practice match with another top quality player.
“I suppose when there’s a crowd there it creates much more of a tense atmosphere, so that wasn’t there - you were just left with you, the game and your opponent, and that’s what I call ‘pure snooker’.

“You take all the circus and all the drama out of it and it just becomes you against another opponent, so that was fine.

“But I don’t really know [what the absence of fans will do to my performance] - I don’t think it will hinder it, and I’ve never enjoyed the build up to events because obviously there’s so much pressure.

“There’s two types of pressure - there’s pressure to deal with in the build up when you’re training, and that type of pressure I really need help with to stabilise me.

“But the pressure once I cross that line, I shake hands with my opponent and I start potting balls, I like that type of pressure.”

O’Sullivan is in relaxed mood ahead of the Betfred World Championship, having not progressed past the last eight at the Crucible since 2014 and struggling for his characteristic fluency on the circuit this season.

The world No.6 lost the final of the Northern Ireland Open against world No.1 and defending world champion Judd Trump and has failed to progress past the semi-finals of a ranking event since.

But the Rocket is hoping his laid back mentality can help fuel his pursuit of the title in Sheffield.

“I don’t really know how I’m feeling [form-wise] at the moment,” he added.

“I like playing and I like playing a certain amount of competitions, and I kind of enjoyed having a few frames and matches in Milton Keynes.

“I’m just going to go out there and play, have a bit of fun and see what happens, like I have done for the last ten years.”

Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.