In Depth

Ronnie O’Sullivan: sixth world title for snooker’s rock star

The Rocket is now one behind Stephen Hendry’s record

Genius, gifted and one of the greatest British sportsmen of all time. We’re running out of ways to describe the talents of snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“The Rocket” is now a six-time world champion after a stunning 18-8 victory last night over Kyren Wilson in the final at the Crucible in Sheffield. 

Going into the second day with the score poised at 10-7, O’Sullivan was unstoppable as he stormed yesterday afternoon’s session 7-1. Requiring just one more frame in the evening, he hit a break of 96 to secure the silver trophy and the £500,000 in prize money.

Having first won the world title in 2001, the 44-year-old Englishman now joins Ray Reardon and Steve Davis on six and is one one behind Stephen Hendry’s record of seven. The success at the Crucible also sees O’Sullivan make history with a record 37th ranking title - one clear of Hendry’s 36.

‘Happy to get one’

The possibility of O’Sullivan matching Hendry’s haul of seven world titles - or even surpassing it - was a key question in the post-match interviews. However, O’Sullivan says he was happy to win one world championship in his career, let alone six. 

He said: “I was happy to get one. Two was great. When I hit four I thought I could call myself a great. All the greats seem to have done it. I look at John Higgins and go he’s a great so if he has won it four times you’re a great. Anything above four and you are in that fantastic company.” 

When asked about Hendry’s seven, O’Sullivan added: “If I happen to win another one, that would be fantastic. If I don’t, then I have had a wonderful career and snooker has given me plenty of pleasurable moments. 

“My greatest asset is that I look like I am just in a practice match down the club when I am at the Crucible. As long as I can keep that same philosophy and style of play, that is what gets me through and has made me win a lot of tournaments.”

Wilson and fans watch on in awe 

The tournament started by allowing a limited number of fans at the Crucible. However, after the pilot programme was abandoned, it was confirmed that a reduced crowd of around 300 people would be allowed in to watch the final weekend in Sheffield. 

Those fans who were lucky enough to get a golden ticket for Sunday’s action would have witnessed a master at work in that afternoon session as O’Sullivan won eight frames in a row. 

First-time finalist Wilson was also forced to be a spectator as The Rocket turned on the style.

The 28-year-old Wilson said: “I am not going to beat myself up too much - I am playing the greatest of all time. It was a dream come true knowing I was playing Ronnie in the final. You can’t respect him too much or he’ll walk right over me, which is what happened.”

Outspoken and talented  

Since making his professional debut in 1992 and his Crucible debut in April 1993, at the age of 17 years and 134 days, O’Sullivan has become snooker’s biggest star.

Looking more like a lead singer from a BritPop band than a snooker player, he has brought some rock and roll sparkle to the sport.

He has also never been afraid to share his opinion - usually reserved for poor tour venues or standards of fellow players. But while he has ruffled a few feathers, his talent on the baize has never been questioned. 

As well as the six world championship wins and 37 ranking tour titles, BBC Sport reports that O’Sullivan also holds the records for most centuries (1,061); most maximum breaks (15) and the quickest 147 (five minutes and eight seconds). 

Speaking on BBC Two, fellow six-time world champion Davis tipped O’Sullivan to go even further.  

Davis said: “He is more of a student of the game than you could ever think. He has studied the game, his action, his technique and the best way to play the game. When it goes wrong he says he doesn’t care but he does. You don’t stay in the game that long if you don’t. He has always wanted to achieve perfection and tactically he is so good as well.

“Ronnie is still there at the top and I’m sure he’s capable of going even further. Certainly into his fifties, should he so wish. He came in with a game plan to play a fast attacking game, it was a risky one but paid off in the end. Wouldn’t it be nice to see him win Sports Personality of the Year?”

Former Masters champion Alan McManus added: “The first two or three shots I ever saw him hit I thought, ‘he is going to be pretty good this lad’. I had heard all the stories. He is a one-off. Talent wise he is the most gifted sportsman in the world in my opinion.”

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