RONNIE O’SULLIVAN romped to a fifth Dafabet Masters title with a 10-4 defeat of Mark Selby at Alexandra Palace on Sunday night.
Their previous two Masters finals had been close but O’Sullivan roared into a 5-0 lead and came into the evening session with a 7-1 advantage.
And though Selby did his best to make the scoreline closer, winning the tenth frame after O'Sullivan had missed frame ball brown, the Rocket, outstanding all week, was not to be denied the £200,000 first prize, adding to his Masters titles won in 1995, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
“Any time you win a tournament it’s a great feeling,” said 38 year-old O’Sullivan, who has also lost in five Masters finals. “I expected it to be 10-9, 10-8 or 10-7 either way because there’s not a lot in it between me, him, Ding, Neil Robertson and Higgins, we’re all on a fine edge. So I was pleased to win it as comfortably as I did in the end.
“Mark plays better when he’s behind. I’ve experienced that on a few occasions, so you never feel quite over the line. When I missed that brown at 8-1 I was so annoyed. I thought, oh know, here we go, I expected it to go 8-4 and then come out after the interval and it’s 8-5, 8-6. That’s how I was feeling. So I was pleased to go 9-3. I thought, just keep competing.”
Selby lost 10-8 to O'Sullivan in the 2009 Masters final and beat him 10-9 in 2010. The Leicester Jester came out attacking at the start of the final but a few early misses cost him as O’Sullivan fired in breaks of 97, 70 and 96 to race 3-0 ahead.
Selby had a chance to win the fourth but O’Sullivan made a high quality green to pink clearance to enter the interval 4-0 up and dominated the fifth to threaten the first Masters final whitewash since Steve Davis beat Mike Hallett 9-0 in 1988.
He was 53-0 up in the sixth as well but Selby eventually won it by potting a difficult long yellow and clearing the colours to get his first frame on the scoreboard.
Selby was 35 ahead with 35 remaining in the seventh, which proved a pivotal frame. He played a poor safety on the last red, O’Sullivan cracked it in from distance and cleared to force the re-spotted black he then knocked in for 6-1.
Buoyed by this, O’Sullivan secured the final frame of the afternoon in two scoring visits to carry a commanding 7-1 lead into the evening.
In the opening frame of the night, O’Sullivan potted a long red and laid a snooker behind the yellow. Selby left a red from his escape and O’Sullivan made 90 for 8-1.
He needed just the brown off the last red in the next for 9-1 but missed it. Selby set about a clearance only to miss the final black off its spot, but O’Sullivan also missed it and left it hanging in the jaws.
O’Sullivan broke down on 26 early in frame 11, letting Selby in for his highest break of the day, 67, to reduce his arrears to 8-3 but the reigning world champion won the last before the interval to halt the comeback.
Another 67 from Selby made it 9-4 but O’Sullivan crossed the winning line aided by his 72 in what proved to be the last.
“I would never have dreamed I’d have done as well as I have when I turned pro so I’m just over the moon with what I have done in the game,” O’Sullivan said.
“If I can keep playing and competing with the guys then it’s great. I’m quite a lot older. Most of them are 26 going on 30, so I’m pleased to still be competing as I’m one of the older brigade.”
O’Sullivan won his fifth world title last season and heads to the Crucible in April in the mood and form to get one closer to Stephen Hendry’s modern day record of seven.
He said: “Eight world titles is a monumental thing to go for but it’d be nice to win a world title when I’m 40. I set myself a goal a few years ago when I started working with Steve Peters [sports psychiatrist] to win a world title when I’m 40. I was quite old when I won it last year. It would be great, like Tom Watson nearly winning the Open.”
Selby was appearing in his fifth Masters final in seven years, having won the title three times.
He said: “I’m obviously disappointed to lose. The first three frames I thought Ronnie was fantastic, he put me under pressure from the word go. I only had a chance at a few long balls the first few frames and missed them. He was so clinical.
“The damage was done in the first session. You have to try and get on top of Ronnie and put pressure on him. If he gets in front he can steamroller you, which is what he did to me today. Coming out tonight it was just a case of trying to make the scoreline presentable and if I did win the first few frames, Ronnie may have buckled a bit, but it wasn’t to be today.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.