Sometimes, perhaps only rarely, you see a performance on a snooker table which leaves you awestruck by its sheer, eye-catching genius, as if watching a magic trick you can't begin to fathom. Ronnie O’Sullivan’s demolition job on Ricky Walden at the Dafabet Masters today ticked every box on the card.
O’Sullivan’s long potting was superb, he scored heavily when in, kept tight control of the cue ball and his safety was so good that Walden barely had a look in.
That Walden did not pot a ball during the last five frames is no reflection on him. He had only one decent chance, which came at 56-0 down in frame six, by which time he had been hit with an onslaught of breath-taking snooker.
These are performances worth celebrating because they don’t come along that often. Stephen Hendry produced some in his career. John Higgins did so against O’Sullivan in the 2005 Grand Prix final.
But nobody has ever made this very difficult game look quite so ridiculously easy as O’Sullivan himself. He didn’t only break the unanswered points record he smashed it – 556 compared to Ding Junhui’s 495 set in the 2007 Premier League.
It’s been a week of toil and struggle at the Ally Pally, with twitchy, edgy snooker the order of the day. Not today. Not from the four times Masters champion.
He showed the rest how it should be done. Afterwards he was chatty and relaxed with the media. He is enjoying himself.
It’s worth remembering, too, that O’Sullivan is 38, an age by which players are meant to have entered a decline.
Hendry by this age was no longer seriously challenging for major titles. Such was his intensity to be the best from a young age that by his late 30s he had mentally burnt out. O’Sullivan never had such intensity, preferring to live in the moment, for good and bad, but this has meant he has enjoyed greater longevity.
And there is no sign at all of any weaknesses in his game. This, and the fact he seems happy at the moment off table, means that he remains a threat to the younger players vying to replace him as the pre-eminent force in professional snooker.
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s career has been a tangled web of highs and lows but is littered with silverware and performances which place him firmly in the pantheon of all time greatness.
When he’s good he’s hard to beat. And when he’s as good as he was today he’s unplayable.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.