ALAN McMANUS’s 5-3 defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Shanghai Masters on Monday was a surprise but not a huge shock given McManus’s strong recent form and O’Sullivan’s lack of competitive matchplay.
McManus added the scalp of O’Sullivan to those of Mark Williams, John Higgins and Ken Doherty he took at the World Championship last season – all players with whom he shared top 16 occupancy for many years.
There was one moment of O’Sullivan magnificence – a 139 total clearance in the third frame – but other than that he was not at his best. Neither was McManus but he played with great self-belief and produced an excellent, match-turning 36 clearance to pink, which included two tough reds, in the sixth frame.
That made it 3-3 and he was certainly the stronger of the two thereafter. O’Sullivan kept trying to make something happen but in the end this was in vain.
Some people say Ronnie never gets kicks but the fact is he suffered a real clunker in the seventh frame, which let McManus in for a run of 39 to lead 4-3. The eighth was a scramble, McManus eventually potting brown and blue for victory.
At 43, the Scot is nearer the end of his career than the beginning but his acutely tuned snooker brain is loaded with knowledge and he still plays a mean game. Crucially he also still puts the work in and remains enthusiastic about snooker as a game and a living.
As for O’Sullivan, it’s a setback but he hasn’t played in a big event since the World Championship four months ago. He played four matches at the Paul Hunter Classic but that hardly constitutes the kind of week in, week out competitive snooker that toughens players up.
He did prove again what a huge box office attraction he is. The large crowd seemed to ooh and aah over every pot, every miss and every in-off. When O’Sullivan is part of a tournament he makes it more special but the fact is he is now out and there are plenty more players capable of making it a memorable week at the Grand Stage.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.