Ronnie O’Sullivan won a record-equalling seventh World Snooker Championship title with an impressive victory over Judd Trump. Drawing level with Stephen Hendry, O’Sullivan showcased the natural flair and unparalleled thinking that makes him the undisputed greatest player in the sport.
Earlier this season, Trump said that the other players on the tour aren’t afraid of O’Sullivan nowadays, but his comprehensive schooling suggests that they really should be. He had a dominant run to the final, and even when Trump showed flashes of inspiration in the battle for the title, O’Sullivan never really seemed troubled – the result was almost preordained, such was his focus on the game and reaching the winning line throughout his matches.
It was Trump who started stronger in the final, taking advantage of some misjudged safety by his opponent to make a break of 72. O’Sullivan quickly levelled, making his 200th World Championship century in the process, and won the third after complaining to the referee about a security guard in his eyeline.
The fourth frame went down to the wire on a re-spotted black, but the story was an argument between O’Sullivan and referee Olivier Marteel that bothered both players. O’Sullivan moved ahead to 5-1, but Trump rallied, making a 97 and winning the final frame to end the first session 5-3 behind.
Trump began the evening session in style, taking the first frame and moving within one. But from then on, Trump was struggling, a mixture of bad luck and a surprising amount of errors. He needed to make things happen on the table, and he couldn’t.
A stop-start frame, containing a re-rack, was won by O’Sullivan, and he took advantage of Trump’s poor safety to restore his two-frame lead. A miss on a difficult black gave the six-time world champion the next frame with a century break, and then he made a 97 to move 8-4 ahead.
In frame 13, Trump missed a pink to the middle, and had his head in his hands as O’Sullivan punished him for it. Another error by his opponent saw O’Sullivan make 87 and move 10-4 ahead, and it was looking like game over already.
Trump fought back, making 80 to take his first frame in six. But he went in-off in the next frame, and O’Sullivan quickly made the break he needed. Trump needed the final frame, and he blasted the pack open, but landed awkwardly on any colour. He tried a brown to the bottom right, missed, and had to sit and watch as his opponent made 88 to finish 12-5 up.
Trump had a mountain to climb, but comebacks were certainly possible – he’d seen that in his semi-final against Mark Williams. He came out fighting, potting a difficult black to take the first frame with a break of 107, his first century of the match.
With everything open, O’Sullivan missed an easy red in frame 19, and Trump punished him for it. It was three on the trot for Trump after a tough frame, but his opponent secured the last frame before the interval to lead 13-8.
Trump roared back, benefitting from a fantastic fluke on the pink in frame 25 to inch closer to his opponent. It was 14-11 to O’Sullivan, heading into the evening.
If O’Sullivan was worried by this surge by Trump, he didn’t show it in the final session. He quickly won a 15th frame, then a 16th, nearly equalling Hendry and Williams’ record of 16 centuries in a tournament in the process.
A strong long pot after Trump’s break was unconverted despite the opportunity, and Trump eventually won a scrappy frame to stay in the match. It was 16-12, and a cross-double from Trump gave him a chance.
He couldn’t convert it, and O’Sullivan made a break of 90 to more within one frame of victory. Trump put another frame on the board with another century break (the 109th of the tournament, breaking a further record in the process).
Frame 31, and a safety shot by Trump left O’Sullivan a hard red down the cushion – he potted it, and a break of 85 put the match to bed.
O’Sullivan cracked a joke about sharing the record with Hendry “for a year”, and on the form he’s demonstrated this year, that talk about number eight feels very possible indeed
After the match, Trump said: “I want to say massive congratulations to Ronnie. It’s been a pleasure to share a table with him. It’s an amazing achievement and he’s the best player of all time. He keeps getting better and better.
“His determination and dedication are clear to see. He’s been the best player this tournament by quite a distance. I was just glad to make a match out of it.”
Then, it was O’Sullivan’s turn to make comments on this record-equalling occasion. He said: “As far as I’m concerned [Trump] is already an all-time great the way he plays the game. I tried to be as relaxed as I could but that is probably the greatest result I’ve had against somebody like Judd.
“I’ve never bothered about records – when you get them, it’s kinda nice. I’ve never performed well if going for that, I’ve just tried to enjoy my game. I don’t have targets. I’ve loved every tournament this year, I’ve just loved playing. I like to win but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The Crucible brings out the worst in me – it’s probably not the best idea but we’ll probably go again next year!”
This is a dream story for snooker fans – the pursuit of Hendry’s record has long been the ultimate quest, the only record evading O’Sullivan, and now he’s achieved it. The Rocket has dominated this tournament from start to finish, a victory never looking anything but the likely outcome.
O’Sullivan cracked a joke about sharing the record with Hendry “for a year”, and on the form he’s demonstrated this year, that talk about number eight feels very possible indeed. For tonight, though, O’Sullivan can bask in the glow of once again being the champion of the world.