'I'm too good for the qualifiers!' boasts Ronnie, after dispatching defending champion Junhui
Ronnie O'Sullivan warned the world he is far from being a snooker also-ran, after sending defending champion Ding Junhui tumbling out of the BGC Masters.
But the 36-year-old insisted his days on the tour treadmill are over and said he would take on the task of occasional qualifying events if a limited schedule means he cannot earn sufficient rankings points to stay in the top 16 and gain automatic entry to blue-riband tournaments.
Top: Ronnie O'Sullivan insists he is still one of the best players
O'Sullivan had another London crowd right behind him as the Masters today made its switch to the Alexandra Palace from Wembley, its home since 1979.
He rewarded their faith with a 6-4 victory over the man who beat Marco Fu in the final 12 months ago, and who O'Sullivan defeated in a 2007 Masters final which was tainted by hostility towards Ding from some audience members which reduced the then teenage Chinese player to tears.
O'Sullivan led 4-1 but was hauled back to 4-4, before edging ahead and then sealing victory with a classy break of 125, with only a missed black denying him a total clearance.
As an invitational event, the Masters carries no world ranking points, so nothing O'Sullivan achieves in the coming week will have an effect on his position.
He currently stands 16th, in real danger of being knocked out of the elite pack of players for the first time since the start of his career. He must be in the top 16 after next month's Welsh Open, or face having to play a qualifying match to reach the Crucible.
Ready or not: O'Sullivan says he is not ready for the qualifiers but knows he may have to play in them
'I know I'm not ready for the qualifiers,' O'Sullivan said. 'I know I'm too good to be playing the qualifiers and that's not being big-headed.'
But O'Sullivan will not put his personal life on hold for the sake of an automatic place in the World Championship, or any other tournament.
He was convinced to play on after sessions with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, having threatened to quit snooker a year ago.
'I was ready to retire last year. At this time last year I'd made my mind up,' O'Sullivan told BBC2.
'Then I met Steve Peters and I didn't want him really to be able to help me.
'But he has, and I've been working with him and I've had a couple of blips along the way.
'But he asked me to be honest with him, and each time I've been honest with him and we've found out I do want to play snooker – but I just want it on my terms.
'I'm not prepared to travel 28, 29 weeks of the year, living out of a suitcase in hotel rooms.'
Referring to his two children, Lily Jo and Ronnie, O'Sullivan explained why he was fed up with life on the road.
Out: O'Sullivan knocked out reigning champion Ding Junhui
'It's quite lonely, particularly when you've got these (children) at home,' he said.
'So I'm not going to do that, and I've decided that if I have to qualify, I have to qualify. That's the nature of how my life is.'
He added: 'I'm still dedicated. I don't see anyone play as hard as me practice-wise. Some of them are like part-time, they're on their phones tweeting. I switch it off and it's business.'
The four-time Masters champion gave his backing to the new Masters venue, in which he will play either UK champion Judd Trump or Stuart Bingham in the quarter-finals on Thursday, with one eye on the 150,000 top prize come next Sunday's final.
'I like it, it's different to Wembley,' O'Sullivan said.
'But it's a great crowd and fantastic atmosphere out there.'
He admitted son Ronnie had been a slight distraction at one stage, explaining: 'I missed a red in the second frame and he was moving, so I said 'Keep still'.
'They were moving about and laughing and my mum was there and it was like a jolly day out.'
More to follow.