Announced yesterday, Ronnie “Rocket” O'Sullivan confirmed his withdrawal from the European Masters qualifiers in Preston where he was due to face Scotland's Eden Sharav, who will now be undoubtedly thrilled that he gets a bye to the final states in Belgium.
Fan favourite O'Sullivan has been known to pick and choose which of the smaller ranking events he plays in over the past few seasons, but his withdrawal from the European Masters still comes as a surprise for many.
O'Sullivan hasn't featured in a competitive World Snooker tournament or qualifying event since his surprise second round defeat to Ali Carter at the Crucible last April, and it seems as if he will be potentially starting his season a lot later than most of the other Top 16 at this rate.
Fortunately for O'Sullivan due to strong performances over the past two seasons, including lifting his sixth UK Championship trophy last december, he's in a very strong position and only was usurped as No.2 in the World Snooker rankings by Mark Williams due to his World Championship victory in May.
With such a large amount of tournaments, including 20 ranking events, this season will be more of a marathon than a spring so O'Sullivan has plenty of time on his hands to play Games at Cozino casino and acquire ranking points to ensure he stays in the Top 4 for the 2019 World Snooker Championship, and gets a more favourable draw.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season it looks like O'Sullivan's next major tournament could be the Shanghai Masters, in which he is defending champion, on 10-16 September. O'Sullivan has travelled more often to China over the past few years and he has a huge fanbase there so it's likely he'll make the trip once again to Shanghai.
After that it is too early to say what events O'Sullivan will compete in. Likely he'll want to play at the International Championship qualifiers on 9-12 October as it's another huge Chinese event and has one of the biggest prize pools of the season.
Unless anything dramatic happens, you can guarantee that O'Sullivan will be back to defend his UK Championship title in late November, as well as competing at home ground at The Masters in January. Who knows what kind of mood Ronnie O'Sullivan will be in when the 2019 World Snooker Championship rolls around again this April however!