Ronnie O’Sullivan claims historic seventh world title to cement status as snooker’s greatest

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Snooker - BetVictor Welsh Open Final - Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Wales - 21/2/16
Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates winning the final with the trophy
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Rebecca Naden
Livepic
EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Snooker - BetVictor Welsh Open Final - Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Wales - 21/2/16 Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates winning the final with the trophy Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Rebecca Naden Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

By Ben Parsons at the Crucible

It was fitting that Ronnie O’Sullivan shed tears in the moments after reaching sporting immortality.

The most talented player to lift a cue is a fragile genius who doesn't concern himself with records but this historic seventh world title cements his status as the bona-fide greatest of the sport. An emotional O’Sullivan equalled Stephen Hendry’s long-standing record of seven Crucible crowns in style with an imperious 18-13 victory over Judd Trump.

O'Sullivan's insatiable desire to win over this marathon 17 days has made him untouchable and the crowning moment came on a memorable Bank Holiday Monday in Sheffield. A resilient Trump, the game’s next most thrilling star, couldn't get close to a player he will aspire to emulate. The perennial debate with Hendry has long leaned towards the irrepressible O’Sullivan but the manner in which he cruised to this victory on his 30th Crucible tilt has banished all doubt.

This extraordinary piece of history was also achieved under the backdrop of a film crew following O'Sullivan's every move. He is the ultimate showman and now reigns on snooker's greatest stage.

O’Sullivan likens legendary Scot Hendry to Tiger Woods but comparisons between the 15-time major champion and this unrivalled cueist seem more appropriate. Both are indomitable front-runners still pursuing perfection in their craft amid bouts of self-inflicted controversy and disillusion. O’Sullivan’s apparent ambivalence and sometimes, as seen here, petulance, can frustrate and bewilder but ultimately add to the allure.

The 2019 champion Trump revelled in reaching his dream final against the player that inspired him to play but this Crucible crescendo threatened to become a nightmare on Sunday. That the best-of-35 marathon appeared to be segueing towards an anti-climax was as much down to the Bristolian’s profligacy as O’Sullivan’s brilliance. Trump toiled and repeatedly left O’Sullivan in the balls at his peril. Ruthless O’Sullivan obliged with three centuries and seven further runs of over 50 to dominate an enthralling day one.

Two tense disputes with referee Olivier Marteel added a further subplot to an upcoming documentary that has become unmissable. O’Sullivan accused Marteel of ‘looking for trouble’ after he was reprimanded by the Belgian for a gesture. Earlier, he had been embroiled in a prolonged exchange with the referee over the misplacement of the cue ball. The incidents may have overshadowed the first day of the final but did not undermine an unrelenting performance.

A 12-5 overnight lead came with a sense of inevitability and an O’Sullivan victory with a session to spare was conceivable. Monday evening’s Crucible golden ticket holders were suddenly bracing for a refund. That, simply, is the O’Sullivan Effect. From his seven triumphs in eight showpiece finals, O’Sullivan has let only John Higgins and now Trump get within five frames of him. When it matters most, he wins, and wins emphatically. The aberration of a 18-14 defeat to Mark Selby in the 2014 showpiece only elevates one of the great Crucible performances. O’Sullivan was hurtling towards his seventh title.

Trump, meanwhile, had other ideas. Perhaps inspired by the unprecedented comeback from the same 12-5 scoreline he survived from carefree Mark Williams in the semi-finals, he arrived at the Crucible on Bank Holiday Monday an entirely different animal. Trump reeled off three frames with runs including 107 and 59 to close the gap to four. O’Sullivan’s timely 64 break would briefly stem the tide but not the wave of momentum as revitalised Trump claimed the next two. For the first time in this long, gruelling tournament O’Sullivan looked flustered, not by an official, but by an opponent. An almighty fluke on a red allowed Trump to reduce the deficit to 14-11 with another century and O’Sullivan had lost his first session of the event by six frames to two.

But the laser-focused Rocket was quick to end hopes of a Crucible comeback for the ages on Monday evening. He returned with two single-visits in the 80s to lead 16-12 before Trump responded with a valiant 64 to force a final mid-session interval. O’Sullivan put himself on the brink with a nerveless 75 and the packed crowd were treated to a 31st frame as Trump refused to surrender with an 11th tournament ton.

And O’Sullivan then sealed victory doing what he knows best, a glorious 85 break completing history and making him the oldest world champion in the modern-era.

What is more remarkable is that, at 46, O'Sullivan still has so much more to give

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