By Ben Parsons at the Crucible
There is an adage within snooker that nobody can beat Ronnie O’Sullivan when his eyes are firmly set on the prize.
O’Sullivan, 46, has had blinkers on for a fortnight in Sheffield as he hunts down Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles.
He is now one victory away from matching the Crucible King as well as becoming the oldest world champion in the modern era, three decades after his first appearance in the tournament.
O’Sullivan is both a genius and a contradiction. His ambivalence towards the game he has dedicated his life to makes him one of sport’s greatest enigmas.
But his strikingly relaxed nature in this year’s event has been a sign of extreme danger for his opponents at the iconic home of snooker.
More determined than ever, O’Sullivan is thriving in the challenge of equalling Hendry’s final elusive record at the sport’s showpiece.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) April 30, 2022
And, in truth, he has stormed into his eighth World Championship final almost at a canter.
David Gilbert, Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire, who share 13 ranking titles between them, were dismantled with minimal fuss on route to the final four.
And perhaps the clearest indication O’Sullivan was primed for battle was an hour into his first-round match.
O’Sullivan trailed Gilbert 3-0 at the Crucible in a best-of-19 clash but was not flustered and instead responded by reeling off six straight frames before cruising through. Since then he has not looked back.
John Higgins, the fellow class of 92 legend who boasts four world titles of his own, could not live with the six-time champion in a semi-final showdown that was predicted to go right down to the wire.
Higgins has been O’Sullivan’s greatest rival and a granite temperament has often given him a crucial mental edge.
But O’Sullivan was seldom troubled and completely outscored the Scot on the way to a dominant 17-11 victory.
Masterful O’Sullivan produced the clearance of the tournament in a defining 16th frame to extend his lead to 10-6 on a re-spotted black, as their 77th professional meeting ultimately became a one-sided affair.
Hendry’s pre-emptive call early in the tournament that no one can stop O’Sullivan is quickly becoming prophetic.
And an ulterior motive to matching Hendry’s record could also be fuelling the Rocket’s latest tilt at a Crucible crown.
O’Sullivan, a keen runner, has spent this Sheffield marathon with a documentary crew following his every move.
It's 25 years to the day since Ronnie O'Sullivan produced the most scintillating five minutes of snooker the world has ever seen 🤤pic.twitter.com/hCNEgg4qhd
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) April 21, 2022
Along the narrow, winding corridors of the Crucible Theatre and onto the streets of the Steel City, no stone is being left unturned in an access–all-areas film chronicling his run at history.
O’Sullivan wants a documentary on his life to be snooker’s answer to the award-winning film depicting the life of Brazilian Formula One great Ayrton Senna.
And to emulate the critically-acclaimed ‘Senna’, the sport’s greatest showman needs a box-office ending after being tracked for the entire season.
The undercurrent of the documentary has not been a distraction but rather an inspiration, and it now has a thrilling climax of a final involving the game’s next most exciting player in Judd Trump.
And O’Sullivan’s filmmakers will have struck gold if the final can replicate the breathless drama of Trump’s epic 17-16 semi-final victory over Mark Williams.
Trump, meanwhile, is on a mission to create his own legacy by claiming his second Crucible crown.
The most thrilling cueists of their respective era’s will go head-to-head in a dream world final starting on Sunday.
An unmissable tilt at sporting immortality awaits.