In fact, 'The Rocket' has gone as far as saying he didn't even enjoy his latest trek to triumph at the Crucible in May. Gone are the days when O'Sullivan, 46, could breeze through a campaign without feeling the strain, explaining the mental toll is far more rigorous in his older age.
More than two decades on from his maiden world title in 2001, O'Sullivan blazed past Judd Trump to equal Stephen Hendry's modern record of seven championships. It was his second such title in the last three tournaments, but something drastic had changed between those wins.
"I checked out about eight years ago so I kind of play snooker for fun," he told Breakdown Podcast hosts Orla Channahoui and Greg Rutherford. "I am still competitive because I am a competitive person, but I had to dial it down a lot just to enjoy it more for longevity reasons.
"Otherwise, I think if I had never got the enjoyment side of it, I probably would not have done it. So I have found a way to enjoy it, but part of the enjoyment was to not go to those dark places.
O'Sullivan detailed how he needed to recoup following his 2020 World Championship win, having had his nervous system "pulverised for 17 days straight" in Sheffield. It was after that experienced he promised himself he would "never go to the dark places the tournament requires you to go" again.
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His main inspiration to test those limits this year was the looming presence of a camera crew filming a new documentary about The Rocket. "So I was forced to actually try because the cameras were following me everywhere," he added.
O'Sullivan enthusiasts are eager for the legend to return and claim the modern record of eight World Championships as his own outright. However, the controversial contender has flirted with the prospect of retirement in the past, suggesting at times he has little interest in overstaying at the top level.
Soon after beating Trump to the biggest prize in snooker, O'Sullivan suggested he would "probably go again" for a title defence in 2023. He confirmed those plans to Eurosport but won't go to such extreme lengths in future, as he clarified: "I will go, but I will not give blood, sweat and tears."